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•HUNT 


£MILE  ZOLA 


Photo  by  Cautin  &  Berger 


Emile  Zola  in  his  last  days 


T?  1\  M"  T  ¥     T?  ^y  /~*\  ¥       A 

EMILE     ZOLA 

NOVELIST    AND    REFORMER 

AN  ACCOUNT  OF  HIS  LIFE  6f  WORK 
BY  ERNEST  ALFRED  VIZETELLY 
ILLUSTRATED  BY  PORTRAITS,  VIEWS, 
6?  FAC-SIMILES 


JOHN    LANE:    THE    BODLEY    HEAD 
LONDON  &>   NEW  YORK    •    MDCCCCIV 


COPYRIGHT,   1904 
BY  JOHN  LANE 


CAMBRIDGE,  MASS.,  U.  S 


TO  HIS  MEMORY 


"  If,  upon  your  side,  you  lave  the  testimony 
of  your  conscience ',  and,  against  you,  that  of 
the  multitude,  take  comfort,  rest  assured 
that  time  will  do  justice."  —  DIDEROT 


PEEFACE 

THIS  book  is  an  attempt  to  chronicle  the  chief  incidents 
in  the  life  of  the  late  fimile  Zola,  and  to  set  out  the  various 
aims  he  had  in  view  at  different  periods  of  a  career  which 
was  one  of  the  most  strenuous  the  modern  world  has  known. 
Virtually  all  his  work  is  enumerated  in  the  following  pages, 
which,  though  some  are  given  to  argument  and  criticism, 
will  be  found  crowded  with  facts.  The  result  may  not  be 
very  artistic,  but  it  has  been  partially  my  object  to  show 
what  a  tremendous  worker  Zola  was,  how  incessantly,  how 
stubbornly,  he  practised  the  gospel  which  he  preached.  An 
attempt  has  been  made  also  to  show  the  growth  of  humani- 
tarian and  reforming  passions  in  his  heart  and  mind,  passions 
which  became  so  powerful  at  last  that  the  "  novelist "  in  Zola 
seemed  as  nothing.  Yet  I  do  not  think  I  can  be  charged  with 
having  neglected  the  literary  side  of  his  career.  It  is  that 
which  bulks  most  largely  in  the  present  volume,  and  that  I 
think  is  as  it  should  be ;  for  while  Zola  was  certainly,  and 
in  some  respects  essentially,  a  Eeformer,  the  pen  was  the 
weapon  with  which  he  strove  to  effect  his  purposes. 

Designed  more  particularly  for  British  and  American 
readers,  the  book  contains  some  passages  which  I  should 
have  abbreviated  —  omitted  perhaps  —  if  I  had  been  address- 
ing a  French  audience.  And  some  subjects,  which,  in  that 
case,  I  might  have  treated  more  fully,  have  here  been  dealt 
with  briefly.  For  instance,  though  I  have  enumerated  all  the 


yiii  PREFACE 

plays  that  Zola  wrote,  and  most  of  those  founded  by  others 
on  his  works,  I  have  not  entered  into  any  real  discussion  of 
his  views  respecting  the  stage,  or  of  his  indirect  influence 
on  it  in  France.  I  have  thought  it  sufficient  to  indicate  that 
such  influence  was  exercised.  A  full  examination  of  Zola's 
relations  with  the  stage  would  have  materially  increased 
the  length  of  a  work  which  is  long  already,  and  which  I 
have  been  anxious  to  keep  within  the  scope  of  one  volume 
—  a  'desire  which  has  made  my  task  more  difficult  than  it 
would  have  been  had  I  used  my  materials  in  all  their  fulness. 
But  I  am  distinctly  of  opinion  that  biographies  in  several 
volumes  have  nowadays  little  chance  of  surviving,  even  for 
a  moderate  number  of  years. 

With  respect  to  Zola's  share  in  the  Dreyfus  case  everybody 
will  recognise,  I  think,  how  difficult  it  is  to  narrate  the 
doings  of  any  one  individual  in  such  an  intricate  mtUe  without 
constant  reference  to  the  other  combatants  and  explanation 
of  the  many  points  at  issue.  Nevertheless,  though  I  fully 
recognise  that  the  deliverance  of  Captain  Dreyfus  was  not 
effected  by  Zola  only,  that  many  other  able  and  whole-hearted 
men  co-operated  in  that  great  achievement,!  have  endeavoured 
to  disentangle  Zola's  share  in  the  battle  from  that  of  the 
others,  saying  of  them  only  what  has  seemed  to  me  strictly 
necessary  to  explain  his  actions.  I  mention  this  in  order 
that  none  may  think  me  unjust  towards  Zola's  fellow-fighters. 
And  though  in  some  introductory  pages  I  have  endeavoured 
to  indicate  the  primary  causes  of  the  Affair,  such  as  I  think 
them  to  have  been,  in  the  hope  that  the  reader  may  be  better 
able  to  understand  the  fury  of  the  fray,  I  have  not  plunged 
into  a  discussion  of  the  Affair  itself.  Besides,  M.  Dreyfus's 
case  is  now  once  more  before  the  Cour  de  Cassation,  and 
reserve  on  a  variety  of  matters  has  therefore  become  advis- 
able. Further,  for  some  years  already,  a  far  abler  pen  than 
mine,  wielded  by  one  of  far  greater  authority,  M.  Joseph 
Eeinach,  has  been  retracing  the  many  episodes  of  the  Affair, 


PREFACE  ix 

and  one  may  take  it,  I  think,  that  "  LJ  Histoire  de  1*  Affaire 
Dreyfus  "  will  not  end  without  casting  light  even  on  matters 
which  may  still  seem  obscure. 

In  one  of  my  chapters  I  mention  an  episode  in  Zola's 
private  life,  which  is  already  known  to  so  many  people  that 
it  would  have  been  ridiculous  on  my  part  to  have  attempted 
to  conceal  it,  even  if  it  had  been  right  to  do  so,  I  will  not 
enlarge  on  the  subject  here,  for  it  is  discussed  in  its  proper 
place;  I  will  merely  reiterate  my  conviction  that  if  a 
biographer  may  well  be  kind  to  the  virtues  and  a  little  blind 
to  the  errors  of  a  man  he  has  loved  it  is  nevertheless  his 
duty  to  his  readers  to  omit  nothing  that  may  be  essential 
for  a  right  understanding  of  the  man's  life. 

Further,  in  another  section  of  the  book,  I  have  recounted 
the  incidents  of  the  prosecution  instituted  against  my  father 
with  respect  to  certain  translations  of  Zola's  novels.  And 
in  this  connection  I  have  had  occasion  to  say  something 
about  certain  fanatics,  and  also  about  the  attitude  of  the 
majority  of  the  British  newspaper  press  before  it  realised 
that  Zola  was  not  so  black  as  it  had  painted  him.  Even 
after  the  lapse  of  long  years,  such  matters  and  their  con- 
sequences cannot  be  recalled  by  one  who  suffered  by  them 
without  some  feeling  of  resentment.  It  is  true  that  in  my 
preface  to  the  English  version  of  Zola's  last  book  I  expressed 
my  acknowledgments  to  the  press  generally  for  the  leniency, 
patience,  and  even  favour  that  had  been  shown  to  me  from 
the  time  I  began  to  re-introduce  Zola's  works  to  the  British 
public.  Those  acknowledgments  I  am  quite  ready  to  re- 
iterate, in  despite  of  the  matters  with  which  I  deal  in  a 
chapter  of  the  present  book,  for  those  matters  belong  to  an 
earlier  period.  But  a  sense  of  duty  and  justice  to  my  father, 
to  my  brothers  and  other  relatives,  to  myself  as  well,  has 
made  it  impossible  for  me  to  overlook  the  period  in  question, 
and  what  I  regard  largely  as  its  aberrations.  Besides,  in  a 
book  intended  for  English  readers,  it  is  only  fit  that  the 


X  PEEFACE 

attitude  of  the  English,  public  towards  Zola  should  be  dealt 
with. 

Most  of  the  illustrations  accompanying  my  text  are  from 
photographs,  several  of  them  taken  specially  for  this  book  ; 
but  I  have  to  express  my  acknowledgments  to  the  pro- 
prietors of  the  Illustrated  London  News  for  their  kind  per- 
mission to  reproduce  various  views  of  the  rooms  in  which 
much  of  Zola's  life  was  spent* 

E.  A.  V. 

MERTON,  SURREY 
March,  1904= 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER  PAGE 

I    INTRODUCTORY  —  THE  ZOLA  FAMILY  —  BIRTH 

OF  SMILE  ZOLA 1 

II    EARLY  YEARS  :  1840-1860 24 

III  BOHEMIA  —  DRUDGERY  —  FIRST  BOOKS:  1860- 

1866 53 

IV  IN  THE  FURNACE  OF  PARIS:  1866-1868     .     .       80 
V    THE    FIRST    "  ROUGON-MACQUARTS  "  :     1868- 

1872 109 

VI    THE  PATH  OF  SUCCESS:  1872-1877  .     .     .     .  140 

VII    THE  ADVANCE  OF  NATURALISM:   1877-1881   .  166 

VIII    THE  BATTLE  CONTINUED:   1881-1887    .     .     .  206 

IX    THE  BRITISH  PHARISEES:   1884-1893    .     .     .  242 
X    THE      LAST     "  ROUGON-MACQUARTS  "  —  THE 
FRENCH  ACADEMY  —  A  VISIT  TO   LONDON: 

1888-1893 300 

XI    A  CRITICAL  GLANCE  :  1893 342 

XII     THE    MAN  —  His    LIFE    DRAMA  —  A    NEW 

DEPARTURE:   1893-1897  390 

XIII  THE  DREYFUS  CASE:   1894-1900 419 

XIV  LAST  YEARS  — DEATH:   1901-1902  ....  493 
XV    CONCLUSION  —  THE  INFLUENCE  AND  SURVIVAL 

OF  ZOLA'S  WORKS 527 

APPENDIX 

A.  —  Declaration  of  Zola's  birth 541 

B.  —  Declaration  of  Ms  death 

C.  —  Note  on  some  English  translations  of  his  novels 

INDEX 547 


ILLUSTKATIONS 

I  Entile  Zola  in  his  Last  Days frontispiece 

II  The  Birthplace  of  Emile  Zola To  face  page  18 

III  Dam  and  Reservoir  of  the  Zola  Canal    ...  40 

IV  Zola's  Home,  Impasse  Sylvacanne,  Aix  ...  72 

V  The  Boulevard  Zola  and  the  Banks  of  the 

Arc,  Aix 110 

VI  Emile  Zola,  1876-1880 144 

VII  Zola's  Home  at  Mddan 184 

VIII  Zola  in  his  Study 224 

IX  Emile  Zola,  1888-1890 240 

X  Aix-in-Provence,  the  Plassans  of  his  Books     .  272 

XI  Fac- simile  Letter  from  Zola  to  E.  A.  Vizetelly  320 

XII  Denise  and  Jacques 352 

XIII  Maitre  Labori 384 

XIV  Zola  writing  '« Ftomditd "  at  Walton    ...  416 
XV  Penn,  and  Summer  field,  Surrey 432 

XVI  Penn  from  the  Garden,  and  Fac-simile  Card 

from  Zola  to  Vizetelly 448 

XVII  fimile  Zola,  September,  1898 464 

XVIII  Zola's  Dining-room 476 

XIX  Mme.  Zola  at  the  Queen's  Hotel,  Norwood     .  488 

XX  Zola's  Bedroom 512 

XXI  M.  Anatole  France  speaking  at  Zola's  Funeral  522 


EMILE    ZOLA 

NOVELIST     AND     REFORMER 


IIsTTEODUCTOEY 
THE  ZOLA  FAMILY— BIRTH  OF  $MILE  ZOLA 

The  meaning  of  "  Zola  "  —  Localities  of  that  name  —  The  Zola  family  of 
Brescia  and  Venice  —  Giovanni  Battista  Zola,  saint  and  martyr  —  The 
Abate  Giuseppe  Zola  and  his  chequered  career  —  The  military  Zolas  of 
Venice  —  Benedetta  ELiariaki  and  her  offspring  —  Francesco,  father  of 
lilmile  Zola  —  His  military  training  —  He  becomes  an  engineer  and  plans 
one  of  the  first  "  railways  "  in  Europe  —  His  service  in  the  French  For- 
eign Legion  and  its  strange  ending  —  He  plans  new  docks  for  the  port  of 
Marseilles  —  His  schemes  for  fortifying  Paris  and  providing  Are  in 
Provence  with  water  —  He  meets  Franchise  iSmilie  Aubert  —  His  roman- 
tic courtship  and  marriage  —  Hia  home  in  the  Rue  St.  Joseph,  Paris  — 
Birth  of  }£mile  Zola  —  Literature  in  England,  America,  and  France  in 
1840  —  The  birth  of  lilmile  Zola  followed  by  that  of  Alphonse  Daudet  — 
Contrasting  characteristics  of  those  writers, 

IT  has  been  contended,  with,  some  plausibility,  that  the 
Italian  word  zola  is  simply  a  variant  of  zolla,  which  means, 
in  a  restricted  sense,  a  clod  or  lump  of  earth,  and,  in  a  broader 
one,  the  glebe  or  soil.  This  circumstance  has  suggested  to 
certain  detractors  of  Bmile  Zola  and  his  writings  the  scornful 
remark  that  he  was  at  least  well  named,  having  been,  indeed, 
of  the  earthf  earthy.  Others  have  retorted,  however,  that  he 
may  well  have  taken  pride  in  such  association,  for,  far  from 
disowning  his  Mother  Earth,  he  acknowledged  and  proclaimed 
her  beneficence,  showed  himself  her  worthy  son,  and  a  true 
and  zealous  brother  to  all  compounded  of  her  clay.  In  the 
course  of  the  present  memoir  it  will  become  necessary  to 

examine  the  blame  and  praise  so  freely  showered  upon  Zola 

i 


2     SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEK 

by  Ms  enemies  and  his  admirers ;  but  this  can  be  done  irre- 
spective of  any  such  fanciful  consideration  as  the  alleged 
meaning  of  his  name.  All  discussion  of  that  meaning  may 
be  left  to  philologists  and  those  who  are  superstitiously  in- 
clined to  detect  predestination  in  nomenclature.  At  the 
same  time,  it  may  be  as  well  to  point  out  that  the  name  of 
Zola  is  borne  by  several  localities  in  Northern  Italy,  For 
instance,  there  are  two  villages  so  called  in  Lombardy,  —  one 
near  Palestro  in  the  province  of  Pavia,  and  another  in 
the  Valle  di  sotto,  province  of  Sondrio.  In  the  Emilia, 
moreover,  towards  Bologna,  there  is  the  small  but  ancient 
township  of  Zola-Predosa,  which  takes  its  name  from  two 
castellanies  united  early  in  the  fourteenth  century.  And  as 
far  south  as  Tuscany,  in  the  province  of  Florence,  one  finds  a 
village  called  Zola  incorporated  in  the  Comune  di  Terra  del 
Sole,  and  yet  another  which  is  named  Zola  di  Modigliana. 
If,  as  is  possible,  the  family  to  which  Emile  Zola  belonged 
derived  its  patronymic  from  some  specific  locality,  this  may 
well  have  been  one  of  the  Lombardian  Zolas ;  for  though  all 
the  published  accounts  of  the  great  novelist's  progenitors 
associate  them  chiefly  with  Venice,  it  is  certain  that  they 
were  long  connected  with  Brescia,  Lombardy's  fairest  city, 
and  one  which  passed  for  a  time  under  Venetian  rule. 

The  first  notable  Zola  of  whom  some  account  has  been 
preserved  was  a  certain  Giovanni  Battista,  born  at  Brescia 
between  1570  and  1580.  Educated  for  the  Church,  he  joined 
the  Society  of  Jesus,  and,  in  or  about  1600,  proceeded  to 
Groa  as  a  missionary.  From  India  he  made  his  way  to 
Japan,  whither  St.  Francis  Xavier  and  others,  following 
Mendez  Pinto,  had  carried  the  cross  half  a  century  earlier, 
Eeniarkable  success  attended  the  first  endeavours  of  the 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       3 

Jesuit  missionaries  among  the  Japanese,  but  their  principles 
were  incompatible  with  tolerance.  Throwing  caution  to  the 
winds,  they  dictated  when  they  should  have  been  content  to 
teach  and  persuade,  destroyed  native  shrines,  and  plotted 
with  disaffected  nobles,  in  such  wise  that  Christianity,  after 
recruiting,  it  is  said,  some  two  hundred  thousand  adherents 
in  the  realm  of  the  Rising  Sun,  was  placed  under  interdict 
by  the  Emperor.  Terrible  slaughter  ensued,  and  among 
those  who  perished  at  the  hands  of  the  Shintoists  and 
Buddhists  was  the  zealous  Giovanni  Battista  Zola.  In  our 
own  times,  under  the  pontificate  of  Pius  IX,  he  was  placed, 
like  the  other  holy  martyrs  of  Japan,  among  the  saints  of 
the  Roman  Catholic  Church. 

At  the  confluence  of  the  eighteenth  and  nineteenth 
centuries,  another 'Zola,  likewise  a  Churchman,  rose  to  a 
position  of  some  eminence.  This  was  the  Abate  Giuseppe 
Zola,  born  in  1739  at  Concesio,  near  Brescia,  in  which  city 
he  became  successively  librarian,  professor  of  morals,  and 
rector  of  the  university.  But  he  was  a  man  of  broad 
views,  one  whose  dream  was  to  reform  and  rejuvenate  the 
Church — even  like  Abb£  Pierre  Fromentin  ^mile  Zola's 
"Lourdes"  and  "Rome."  In  1771  the  theological  views 
professed  by  Giuseppe  Zola  brought  him  into  conflict  with 
his  Bishop  and  the  Jesuits.  He  was  forced  to  quit  the 
university;  a  three-volume  work  which  he  had  written 
on  the  early  Christians  prior  to  Constantino  and  two  vol- 
umes of  his  theological  lectures  were  denounced  to  the 
Congregation  of  the  "Index  expurgatorius  " ;  and — in  this 
instance  also  like  Abb6  Pierre  Froment  —  he  journeyed 
to  Rome  in  the  hope  of  justifying  himself.  In  the  end  — 
once  more  anticipating  Abb£  Pierre  —  he  had  to  make  his 


4     SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

submission.  Then,  for  three  years,  he  remained  at  Rome, 
teaching  morals;  hut  the  influence  of  his  enemies,  the 
Jesuits,  was  waning,  and  not  long  after  the  promulgation 
of  G-anganelli's  historic  hrief  suppressing  Loyola's  Order, 
Zola  obtained  an  appointment  as  rector  and  professor  of 
ecclesiastical  history  at  a  seminary  for  Hungarian  students, 
established  at  Pavia  by  the  Emperor  Joseph  II. 

He  proved  a  zealous  partisan  of  that  monarch's  reforms ; 
he  imagined,  too,  that  the  suppression  of  the  Jesuits  meant 
the  dawn  of  a  new  era  for  the  Church.  Thus  he  indulged 
fearlessly  in  advanced  religious  and  political  views,  his  per- 
suasive eloquence  carrying  most  of  the  professors  of  Pavia 
with  him.  The  Church  then  again  treated  him  as  a  rebel ; 
he  was  accused  of  infecting  his  seminary  with  heresy ;  and 
not  only  was  he  deprived  of  his  rectorship,  but  the  institu- 
tion itself  was  closed.  At  last  came  the  French  Revolution ; 
and  the  victories  of  the  Republican  arms  in  Italy  brought 
Zola  the  professorships  of  history,  jurisprudence,  and  diplo- 
macy at  the  Pavian  University.  During  the  brief  revival  of 
Austrian  rule  (1799-1800)  he  was  once  more  cast  out,  to 
be  reinstated,  however,  immediately  after  Marengo.  The 
last  important  incident  of  his  life  was  a  journey  to  Lyons  as 
one  of  the  Lombardian  deputies  whom  Napoleon  summoned 
thither  when  he  constituted  his  Kingdom  of  Italy.  A  year 
later,  1806,  Giuseppe  Zola  passed  away  at  his  native  place. 
He  was  a  man  of  cpnsiderable  erudition,  broad  sympathies, 
and  untiring  energy.  Besides  writing  a  dozen  volumes  on 
theological  and  historical  subjects,  he  edited  and  annotated 
numerous  books,1  invariably  turning  to  literature  for  conso- 

1  Only  one  of  Giuseppe  Zola's  works  —  "  Lezioni  di  Storia  delle  Leggi  e  di 
Costume  def  popoH,"  etc.,  Milan,  1809  —  is  in  the  British  Museum  Library. 
Among  the  others,  in  addition  to  the  volumes  placed  in  the  '*  Index  expurga- 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE     5 

lation  amid  the  vicissitudes  of  Ms  career,  which  lias  been 
recounted  here  at  some  little  length  because  it  is  of  a  sugges- 
tive nature  when  one  remembers  that  the  Abate  Giuseppe 
was  a  kinsman  of  the  progenitors  of  Emile  Zola. 

Those  progenitors  belonged  to  a  branch  of  the  family 
which  had  established  itself  at  Venice,  and  which  became 
noted  for  its  men  of  the  sword,  even  as  the  Brescian  branch 
was  noted  for  its  Churchmen.  The  Zolas  of  Venice  held 
military  rank  under  the  last  Doges,  then  under  the  Cisal- 
pine Eepublic,  and  eventually  under  Napoleon  as  King  of 
Italy.  Two  of  them  fell  in  the  great  conqueror's  service, 
one  then  holding  the  rank  of  colonel,  the  other  that  of 
major.  A  third,  who  became  a  colonel  of  engineers  and 
inspector  of  military  buildings,  married  a  young  girl  of  the 
island  of  Corfu,  which  had  been  subject  to  Venice  since  the 
close  of  the  fourteenth  century.  Her  name  was  Benedetta 
Kiariaki,  and  she  introduced  a  Greek  element  into  the  Zola 
blood.  It  seems  probable  that  she  had  several  children, 
among  whom  were  certainly  two  sons.  The  elder,  called 
Marco,  became  a  civil  engineer,  and  rose  to  the  highest  rank 
in  the  State  roads-and-bridges  service.  He  had  three  chil- 
dren, two  daughters  named  respectively  Benedetta  and 
Catarina,  and  a  son,  Carlo.  Benedetta  died  unmarried,  while 
Catarina  was  wedded  to  Cavaliere  Antonio  Petrapoli  of 
Venice ;  but  their  only  offspring,  a  daughter,  was  snatched 
from  them  in  her  childhood. 

Carlo  Zola,  meantime,  followed  the  profession  of  the  law, 
and,  after  the  foundation  of  the  present  Kingdom  of  Italy 

torius,"  were  some  elaborate  commentaries  on  the  history  of  the  Church  (3 
vols.,  1780-1786),  a  dissertation  on  the  theological  authority  of  St.  Augustine, 
a  treatise  on  Death,  etc. 


6     £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEB 

(1866),  was  appointed  a  judge  of  the  Appeal  Court  of  Brescia, 
He  died  comparatively  few  years  ago.  Contemporary  with 
him  there  were  other  Venetian  and  Brescian  Zolas,  cousins, 
presumably,  of  various  degrees.  In  family  letters  of  the  first 
half  of  the  last  century,  one  reads  of  a  Lorenzo,  a  Giuseppa, 
a  Marius,  and  a  Dorina  Zola,  but  all  these  have  passed 
away ;  and  at  the  present  time  (1903)  the  only  representa- 
tive of  the  family  in  Italy  would  seem  to  be  the  Signora 
Emma  Fratta,  nSe  Zola,  a  widow  lady  with  four  children. 

But,  besides  Marco  Zola,  Benedetta  Kiariaki,  the  Corfiote, 
had  a  son  called  Francesco  in  his  earlier  years,  and  Frangois 
after  he  took  up  his  residence  in  France.  As  a  matter  of 
fact  he  bore  four  Christian  names,  Francesco  Antonio 
Giuseppe  Maria  —  which  maybe  taken  as  some  indication 
of  the  family's  gentle  status.  In  the  present  narrative,  in 
which  it  is  necessary  to  speak  of  him  at  some  little  length, 
for  he  became  the  father  of  £mile  Zola,  it  may  be  best  to 
call  him  Francois.  He  was  born  at  Venice  on  August  8, 
1795,  and  entered  the  Eoyal  Military  School  of  Pavia  in 
October,  1810.  A  corporal-cadet  in  March,  1811,  a  serjeant 
two  months  later,  he  obtained  his  first  commission,  as  a 
sub-lieutenant  in  the  Fourth  Light  Infantry,  in  April,  1812. 
In  July  of  the  same  year  he  was  transferred  to  the  Royal 
Italian  Artillery,  with  the  rank  of  lieutenant.  He  was  then 
only  seventeen.  Until  the  collapse  of  the  Napoleonic  King- 
dom of  Italy  in  1814  he  served  under  the  viceroy  Prince 
Eugene  Beauharnais;  and  his  regiment  being  afterwards 
incorporated  in  the  Austro-Italian  forces,  he  remained  with 
it  till  1820.1 

*  "La  YeMt£  en  Marche,"  by  $mile  Zola,  Paris,  1901,  p.  259,  (Docu- 
ments in  the  Dossier  2Pran9ois  Zola  at  the  French  War  Office. ) 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     7 

But  the  exile  of  Napoleon  to  St.  Helena  had  brought 
Europe  a  period  of  peace,  and  some  leisure  fell  to  the  lot 
even  of,  military  men  in  active  service.  In  all  probability 
the  "  First  Light  Battery,"  to  which  Francois  Zola  belonged, 
was  stationed  at  Padua ;  in  any  case,  while  still  in  the  army, 
the  young  man  perfected  his  studies  at  the  Paduan  Univer- 
sity and  secured  the  degree  of  doctor  in  mathematics.  In 
1818  he  published  a  treatise  on  levelling  ground,1  which 
was  adopted  by  the  authorities  at  Milan  (the  capital  of  the 
Austrian  dominions  in  Italy)  as  a  text-book  for  the  engi- 
neers of  their  roads-and-bridges  service,  and  which  procured 
for  the  young  author,  then  three  and  twenty,  the  title  of 
Associate  of  the  Academy  of  Sciences,  Letters,  and  Arts  of 
Padua.2 

If  in  1820  he  withdrew  from  military  service,  it  was,  as 
shown  by  a  document  in  his  own  handwriting,  preserved  at 
the  French  War  Office,  because  the  Austrian  Emperor  "  had 
been  graciously  pleased  to  order  the  introduction  of  the 
bastinado  into  his  Italian  regiments  " ;  but  although  Fran$ois 
Zola  denounced  this  as  a  barbarous  proceeding,  he  does  not 
appear  to  have  entertained  any  hatred  of  the  Austrians 
generally.  From  a  speech  delivered  at  his  funeral,  one 
gathers  that  on  quitting  the  army  he  worked  under  his 
brother  Marco,  then  chief  inspector  of  roads  and  bridges, 
became  a  properly  qualified  engineer,  and  was  eventually 
sent  to  Upper  Austria  on  some  official  surveying  business. 
While  there,  he  became  acquainted  with  the  Bitter  von 
Gerstner  and  an  engineer  named  Bergauer,  in  conjunction 

1  "Trattato  di  Livellazione  topografica,"  by  Francesco  Zola,  Dr.  in  Math., 
Lieut,  Padua,  1818.    8vx>. 

2  Funeral  oration  on  F.  Zola,  by  Maltre  Labot,  Advocate  at  the  Bar  of  the 
French  Council  of  State, 


8     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOKMEB 

with  whom  lie  constructed  the  first  tramway  line  laid  down 
on  the  continent  of  Europe.1 

It  has  "been  called  a  railway,  and  such  it  undoubtedly 
was,  though  not  in  the  sense  usually  given  to  the  word 
"railway"  nowadays;  for  relays  of  horses  were  employed 
for  traction.  The  line  extended  from  Linz  on  the  Danube 
to  Budweis  in  Bohemia,  a  distance  of  seventy-eight  miles ; 
and  though  it  seems  to  have  been  largely  devised  for  the 
transport  of  timber  from  the  Bohemian  forests  to  the  great 
waterway,  there  was  also  a  passenger  service,  which  still 
existed  in  our  time.2 

While  constructing  this  line,  Zola,  in  June,  1823,  obtained 
personally  the  imperial  authorisation  to  make  another  one, 
connecting  Linz  with  G-munden  and  the  Salzkammergut  — 
the  so-called  "Austrian  Switzerland,"  industrially  important 
for  its  extensive  salt-works.  But  he  became  disappointed 
with  the  financial  results  of  the  Budweis  line,  and,  accord- 
ingly, in  September,  1830,  he  sold  the  Gmunden  concession. 
It  seems  likely  that  he  had  then  already  quitted  Austria. 
There  are  indications  that  he  may  have  visited  England 
with  Eitter  von  Gerstner,  and  have  sojourned  for  a  time 
in  Holland;  but  before  the  end  of  1830  he  was  certainly  in 
France,  writing  to  King  Louis  Philippe  respecting  a  scheme 
he  had  devised  for  the  fortification  of  Paris.  In  the  spring 
of  1831  he  was  in  communication  with  the  French  War 
Office  on  this  same  subject,  whilst  also  soliciting  an  appoint- 
ment in  the  Foreign  Legion,  in  Algeria,  with  the  rank  of 


1  Documents  printed  by  the  "  Neue  Freie  Presse  "  of  Vienna  (No.  12,028, 
February  17,  1898)  and  quoted  in  "  LePere  d'imile  Zola,"  by  Jacques  Dhur, 
Paris,  1899. 

a  Baedeekefs  "Southern  Germany  and  Austria,"  1871. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     9 

captain.1  The  fortification  scheme  was  shelved,  but  the  ap- 
pointment was  granted,  excepting  in  one  respect :  it  was  as 
a  lieutenant,  not  as  a  captain,  that  Fran§ois  Zola  entered 
the  Foreign  Legion  in  July,  1831. 

His  career  in  that  corps  proved  very  brief,  and  ended 
strangely.  Many  years  afterwards  an  unprincipled  journal- 
ist, anxious  to  discredit  32mile  Zola's  championship  of  Cap- 
tain Dreyfus,  raked  up  the  episode  in  order  to  denounce 
the  novelist  as  the  son  of  a  thief.  But  it  is  certain  that 
some  documents  cited  at  the  time  were  entirely  forged,  that 
others  were  falsified  in  part,  and  that  others,  again,  were 
suppressed.  This  can  occasion  no  surprise  when  it  is  re- 
membered that  one  of  the  dossiers  concerning  Francois  Zola, 
preserved  at  the  French  War  Office,  passed  for  a  time  into 
the  possession  of  the  notorious  forger,  Colonel  Henry;2  and 
that  an  unscrupulous  Minister,  General  Billot,  by  asserting 
authoritatively  that  certain  papers  did  not  exist,3  contrived 
to  delay  their  discovery.  Those  matters  will  require  notice 
hereafter;  at  this  stage  one  need  only  mention  that  the 
attack  on  Frangois  Zola's  memory  was  answered  first  in  a 
work  called  "  Le  Pfere  d'Emile  Zola "  by  a  Socialist  journal- 
ist, writing  under  the  name  of «'  Jacques  Dhur,"  and  secondly 
by  fimile  Zola  himself  in  a  series  of  newspaper  articles, 
which  he  reprinted  in  a  volume  entitled  "La  V4rit£  en 
Marche." 

After  studying  those  books  and  the  documents  they 
quote,  nobody  of  impartial  mind  can  entertain  the  graver 
charges  preferred  against  the  novelist's  father.  In  his  time 

,     *  "  La  YeritS  en  Marche/'  pp.  259,  280-282. 

2  Probably  in  March,  1898.     "  La  V6rit6  en  Marche,"  pp.  251-253. 
Hd.,  pp.  277-279. 


8       ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOEMER 

with  whom  he  constructed  the  first  tramway  line  laid  down 
on  the  continent  of  Europe.1 

•  It  has  been  called  a  railway,  and  such  it  undoubtedly 
was,  though  not  in  the  sense  usually  given  to  the  word 
"railway"  nowadays;  for  relays  of  horses  were  employed 
for  traction.  The  line  extended  from  linz  on  the  Danube 
to  Budweis  in  Bohemia,  a  distance  of  seventy-eight  miles ; 
and  though  it  seems  to  have  been  largely  devised  for  the 
transport  of  timber  from  the  Bohemian  forests  to  the  great 
waterway,  there  was  also  a  passenger  service,  which  still 
existed  in  our  time.2 

While  constructing  this  line,  Zola,  in  June,  1823,  obtained 
personally  the  imperial  authorisation  to  make  another  one, 
connecting  Linz  with  Gmunden  and  the  Salzkammergut  — 
the  so-called  "  Austrian  Switzerland,"  industrially  important 
for  its  extensive  salt-works.  But  he  became  disappointed 
with  the  financial  results  of  the  Budweis  line,  and,  accord- 
ingly, in  September,  1830,  he  sold  the  Gmunden  concession. 
It  seems  likely  that  he  had  then  already  quitted  Austria, 
There  are  indications  that  he  may  have  visited  England 
with  Bitter  von  Gerstner,  and  have  sojourned  for  a  time 
in  Holland ;  but  before  the  end  of  1830  he  was  certainly  in 
France,  writing  to  King  Louis  Philippe  respecting  a  scheme 
he  had  devised  for  the  fortification  of  Paris.  In  the  spring 
of  1831  he  was  in  communication  with  the  French  "War 
Office  on  this  same  subject,  whilst  also  soliciting  an  appoint- 
ment in  the  Foreign  Legion,  in  Algeria,  with  the  rank  of 

1  Documents  printed  by  the  "  Neue  Freie  Presse  "  of  Vienna  (No,  12,028, 
February  17,  1898)  and  quoted  in  "  LePere  d'^mile  Zola,"  by  Jacques  Dhur, 
Paris,  1899. 

2  Baedecker*s  "Southern  Germany  and  Austria,"  1871* 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMER        9 

captain.1  The  fortification  scheme  was  shelved,  but  the  ap- 
pointment was  granted,  excepting  in  one  respect :  it  was  as 
a  lieutenant,  not  as  a  captain,  that  Fran§ois  Zola  entered 
the  Foreign  Legion  in  July,  1831. 

His  career  in  that  corps  proved  very  brief,  and  ended 
strangely.  Many  years  afterwards  an  unprincipled  journal- 
ist, anxious  to  discredit  ISmile  Zola's  championship  of  Gap- 
tain  Dreyfus,  raked  up  the  episode  in  order  to  denounce 
the  novelist  as  the  son  of  a  thief.  But  it  is  certain  that 
some  documents  cited  at  the  time  were  entirely  forged,  that 
others  were  falsified  in  part,  and  that  others,  again,  were 
suppressed.  This  can  occasion  no  surprise  when  it  is  re- 
membered that  one  of  the  dossiers  concerning  Frangois  Zola, 
preserved  at  the  French  War  Office,  passed  for  a  time  into 
the  possession  of  the  notorious  forger,  Colonel  Henry;2  and 
that  an  unscrupulous  Minister,  General  Billot,  by  asserting 
authoritatively  that  certain  papers  did  not  exist,3  contrived 
to  delay  their  discovery.  Those  matters  will  require  notice 
hereafter;  at  this  stage  one  need  only  mention  that  the 
attack  on  Frangois  Zola's  memory  was  answered  first  in  a 
work  called  "Le  P&re  d'fimile  Zola"  by  a  Socialist  journal- 
ist, writing  under  the  name  of  *'  Jacques  Dhur,"  and  secondly 
by  Emile  Zola  himself  in  a  series  of  newspaper  articles, 
which  he  reprinted  in  a  volume  entitled  "La  V4rit£  en 
Marche." 

After  studying  those  books  and  the  documents  they 
quote,  nobody  of  impartial  mind  can  entertain  the  graver 
charges  preferred  against  the  novelist's  father.  In  his  time 

,     *  "  La  Yerit&  en  Marche,"  PP-  259,  280-282. 

2  Probably  in  March,  1898.     "La  V&itf  en  Marche,"  pp.  251-253. 
8  Ibid.,  pp.  277-279. 


10     MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

(1831-1832)  great  confusion  prevailed  in  the  Algerian  army 
of  occupation.  Commanders  and  officers  were  constantly 
being  changed,  and  Zola  himself,  after  serving  at  first  as  a 
company  officer,  was  temporarily  entrusted  with  wardrobe 
matters,  in  his  management  of  which  some  irregularities  ap- 
pear to  have  arisen,  in  consequence,  perhaps,  of  the  aforesaid 
confusion,  or  of  Zola's  inexperience  of  such  duties,  or  even 
neglect  of  them.  In  this  connection,  it  is  asserted  that 
he  became  involved  in  an  intrigue  with  a  married  woman, 
the  wife  of  an  ex-non-commissioned  officer,  of  German  origin, 
named  Fischer.  It  is  alleged  that  in  May,  1832,  when  this 
woman  and  her  husband  were  on  the  point  of  sailing  for 
France,  Zola  disappeared  from  his  quarters ;  and  that,  some 
garments  belonging  to  him  having  been  found  on  the  sea- 
shore near  Algiers,  it  was  at  first  thought  he  had  committed 
suicide,  or  had  been  drowned  while  bathing.  Somebody  sug- 
gested, however,  that  he  might  be  with  the  Fischers,  and 
accordingly  the  vessel  on  which  they  had  taken  passage  was 
searched,  Zola  was  not  there,  but  the  Fischers  acknow- 
ledged that  a  sum  of  fifteen  hundred  francs,  out  of  four  thou- 
sand found  in  their  possession,  belonged  to  him.  This 
seemed  a  matter  for  investigation,  particularly  as  a  deficit 
in  the  wardrobe  accounts  had  now  been  discovered.  The 
Fischers,  therefore,  were  arrested  and  brought  on  shore. 

But  Zola,  from  some  unknown  retreat,  —  unknown,  that 
is,  at  the  present  time,  —  wrote  to  the  Commander-in-Chief, 
General  the  Duke  of  Eovigo,  offering  to  come  forward,  make 
up  his  accounts,  and  pay  whatever  deficit  might  be  found. 
According  to  the  Duke  of  Eovigo,  as  Zola  was  only  sus- 
pected of  bad  management,  and  no  judicial  complaint  had 
been  laid  against  him,  this  offer  was  accepted.  No  court- 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     11 

martial  was  held,  though  the  lieutenant,  on  presenting 
himself,  was  placed  under  arrest  until  his  accounts  had 
been  adjusted.  He  then  paid  over  what  was  due,  and  the 
conseil  d' administration  of  the  Foreign  Legion  having  given 
him  a  discharge  in  full,  the  Duke  of  Rovigo  ordered  his 
release. 

Meantime,  Zola  had  tendered  the  resignation  of  his  com- 
mission, and  Marshal  Soult,  the  Minister  of  War,  who  had 
been  informed  of  the  whole  affair,  objected  that  he  ought 
not  to  have  been  set  at  liberty  while  this  was  still  under 
consideration.  Rovigo  then  wrote  to  the  Minister  justifying 
his  own  action ; l  and,  in  the  result,  after  reference  to  the 
King  in  person,  Zola's  resignation  was  accepted. 

Such  are  those  facts  of  the  case  which  seem  to  be  well 
authenticated.  It  is  known  that  several  documents  have 
disappeared  from  one  of  the  Zola  dossiers  at  the  French 
Ministry  of  War,  and  that  at  least  one  letter  attributed  to 
Colonel  Combe,  who  commanded  the  Foreign  Legion  in 
Zola's  time,  was  forged;  while  another,  couched  in  the 
strangest  and  wildest  language,  was  doctored  if  not  entirely 
invented.  In  such  circumstances  it  is  impossible  to  ascer- 
tain the  whole  truth  concerning  the  affair ;  but  the  lenient 
view  taken  of  it  by  the  Duke  of  Rovigo,  the  life  of  high  rec- 
titude and  able  work  which  Zola  led  in  after  as  in  earlier 
years,  the  favour  subsequently  shown  him  by  King  Louis 
Philippe,  to  whom  his  case  had  been  submitted,  his  later 
correspondence  with  Marshal  Soult,  to  whom  every  partic- 
ular was  also  known,  —  all  tend  to  show  that  whatever  may 
have  been  the  exact  nature  of  his  delinquency,  it  was  far 
less  grave  than  his  son's  enemies  wished  one  to  imagine, 
l  "La  Y<§rit6  en  Marohe,"  pp.  264-266.  . 


14     &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

gineering  "enterprises,  he  constantly  showed  himself  to  be  in 
advance  of  his  age,  —  such  as  it  was  in  France,  —  full  of 
faith  in  science,  gifted  with  remarkable  foresight  as  to 
possible  developments,  and  possessed  of  an  energy  which  no 
rebuff  could  overcome.  In  1831  his  schemes  for  the  fortifi- 
cation of  Paris  had  been  shelved ;  but  directly  that  question 
was  publicly  revived  by  the  French  government  (1839- 
1840),  Francois  Zola,  undismayed  by  the  failure  of  his  long 
efforts  at  Marseilles,  again  did  battle  for  his  ideas.  It  is  a 
curious  circumstance,  established  by  his  writings  and  supply- 
ing strong  proof  of  his  foresight,  that  he  was  opposed  to  the 
construction  of  a  rampart  round  the  city,  and  advocated  a 
system  of  detached  forts.  Long  years  afterwards,  the  Franco- 
German  War  of  1870  demonstrated  the  general  accuracy  of 
his  views ;  the  rampart,  raised  contrary  to  his  advice,  then 
proved  absolutely  useless,  and  is  now  being  removed,  in  part 
at  all  events ;  while  the  advanced  forts  of  the  time,  though 
their  system  was  imperfect,  alone  rendered  efficient  service 
against  the  besiegers.  But  it  is  remarkable  to  find  that  of 
recent  years,  in  adding  to  the  forts  which  did  duty  during 
the  German  investment,  in  erecting  others  in  advance  of 
them  so  as  to  enclose  a  larger  stretch  of  country,  whence 
the  city  might  derive  supplies  of  food  in  time  of  siege,  the 
French  military  authorities  have  followed  in  all  noteworthy 
respects  the  line  traced  by  Frangois  Zola,  first  in  1831,  and 
secondly  in  1840! 

Thus  time  brings  round  its  revenges.  Francois  Zola  was 
a  gifted  and  able  man,  and  well  might  a  son  be  proud  of 
having  such  a  father.  How  proud  fimile  Zola  was  to  have 
sprung  from  one  who  showed  such  practical  and  far-seeing 
genius,  how  he  vindicated  his  memory,  and  smote  his 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    15 

traducers,  all  may  read  in  the  little  volume  entitled  "  Truth 
on  the  March." 

But  before  Francois  Zola  made  fresh  efforts  in  the  matter 
of  fortifying  Paris,  he  had  quitted  Marseilles  for  Aix,  the 
old  capital  of  Provence,  having  observed  in  the  course  of 
some  visits  how  greatly  that  ancient  city  and  some  of  the 
surrounding  country  suffered  from  a  lack  of  water.  The 
idea  of  damming  certain  gorges,  forming  huge  reservoirs 
into  which  the  mountain  torrents  might  fall,  and  bring- 
ing the  water  to  Aix  by  a  canal,  occurred  to  him,  and 
he  had  already  studied  the  matter  for  some  months,  when, 
in  September,  1838,  the  chief  local  journal,  "Le  Memorial 
d'Aix,"  gave  publicity  to  his  views.  A  preliminary  agree- 
ment with  the  Municipal  Council  followed  in  December, 
and  from  that  moment,  what  with  this  canal  scheme,  the 
Marseilles  project,  and  ,the  plans  for  fortifying  Paris,  Zola 
had  his  hands  full.  He  was  frequently  compelled  to  visit 
the  capital,  and  on  one  such  occasion  he  fell  in  love  and 
married. 

This  occurred  early  in  1839.  Francois  Zola,  who  is  de- 
scribed as  being  a  genuine  Italian  in  appearance,  dark,  with 
a  very  expressive  face,  a  delicately  curved  mouth,  a  well- 
shaped  nose,  and  piercing  eyes,  was  then  three  and  forty, 
while  his  bride  was  in  her  twentieth  year,  simple,  gentle, 
and  very  pretty.  Their  first  meeting  recalled  that  of  Faust 
and  Marguerite.  He  perceived  her  as  she  was  leaving 
church,  fell  in  love  with  her  on  the  spot,  sought  her  home 
and  her  parents  in  the  Rue  de  CWry,  and  wooed  her  with 
all  the  ardour  of  his  Italian  temperament.  Her  name  was 
Fran§oise  Emilie  Aubert.  Born  in  1819,  under  the  shadow 
of  the  tower  of  Philip  Augustus,  in  the  little  town  of  Dour- 


18    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMEB 

the  newspaper  trade  of  Paris  was  carried  on  chiefly  in 
and  about  the  Bue  de  la  Victoire. 

Directly  the  Zolas  were  installed  in  their  new  abode  the 
young  wife  had  to  make  preparations  for  her  expected  babe. 
In  this  matter  she  was  assisted  by  her  mother,  Madame 
Aubert,  a  bright  and  sturdy  woman,  who  had  sprung  from 
that  peasantry  which  is  the  backbone  of  France.  And  soon 
afterwards,  at  eleven  o'clock  on  the  night  of  Wednesday, 
April  2,  on  a  camp-bedstead,  placed  near  the  bedroom  win- 
dow already  mentioned,  there  was  born  a  child,  who  to  the 
great  delight  of  parents  and  grandparents  was  found  to  be  a 
boy.  Two  days  later  the  birth  was  registered  at  the  Muni- 
cipal Offices  of  the  district,  and  the  babe  then  received  the 
names  of  Emile  Edouard  Charles  Antoine.1 

Born  on  the  spot  where  Moli&re  and  La  Fontaine  had 
slumbered,  that  boy  was  destined  like  them  to  rise  to  literary 
celebrity.  The  laugh  which  Moli&re  cast  over  human  vile- 
ness,  the  light  archness  of  La  Fontaine,  were  never  his.  It 
was  with  deep  earnestness  that  he  stripped  every  Tartuffe 
of  his  last  shred  of  clothing,  that  he  bared  every  social  sore 
to  the  gaze  of  a  shrinking  world.  And  the  moral  of  his 
disclosures  was  not  pointed  in  any  vein  of  half-indulgent 
sarcasm,  but  writ  large,  in  letters  of  fire,  which  burnt  and 
branded.  Moreover,  a  supreme  destiny  was  reserved  for 
him :  his  voice  became  at  one  moment  that  of  the  conscience 
of  mankind2 

At  the  time  of  his  birth  the  Victorian  age  was  dawning 
in  England.  The  Queen  had  lately  married.  Most  of 
Tennyson's  work  was  still  undone,  and  so  was  Buskin's. 

1  See  post,  Appendix  A.    Declaration  of  the  birth  of  $mile  Zola, 
3  Anatole  France,  October  5,  1902. 


Photo  by  A.  Waser 


The  Birthplace  of  Emile  Zola 
10,  Rue  St.   Joseph,  Paris 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE     19 

Bailey  had  just  leapt  into  renown  with  "  Festus."  Brown- 
ing, in  1840,  produced  his  "Sordello,"  and  his  wife  her 
"  Drama  of  Exile  " ;  while  Hood  meandered  "  Up  the  Bhine," 
and  Tupper  basked  in  the  continued  popularity  of  his  book 
of  platitudes,  already  two  years  old.  Meantime  Faraday  had 
published  the  first  edition  of  his  "  Experimental  Eesearches 
in  Electricity  " ;  Darwin,  advancing  slowly  and  methodically 
towards  great  pronouncements,  was  preparing  the  "  Zoology 
of  the  Voyage  of  the  Beagle " ;  John  Stuart  Mill  was  medi- 
tating on  his  "  System  of  Logic."  And  while  Southey  com- 
pleted his  naval  History,  while  Agnes  Strickland  began  to 
issue  her  "  Lives  of  the  Queens,"  and  Harriet  Martineau  her 
History  of  thirty  years,  Macaulay  wrote  his  Essays,  and 
Carlyle  discoursed  on  "Heroes  and  Hero-worship." 

For  the  Ion  ton  of  London,  the  Countess  of  Blessing- 
ton's  now  forgotten  "  Belle  of  the  Season "  was  one  of  the 
novels  of  the  day;  but  in  that  same  year,  1840,  Dickens 
published  his  "  Old  Curiosity  Shop,"  Thackeray  his  "  Cather- 
ine "  and  his  "Paris  Sketch  Book,"  Ainsworth  Ms  "  Tower/' 
James  his  "  Man  at  Arms,"  Marryat  his  "  Poor  Jack,"  Hook 
his  "  Cousin  Geoffrey,"  and  Frances  Trollope  her  "Widow 
Married,"  with  which  she  hoped  to  repeat  the  success  of  her 
clever  "  Widow  Barnaby."  Bulwer,  for  his  part,  was  writing 
"  Night  and  Morning,"  and  Lever  was  recording  the  exploits 
of  "Charles  O'Malley,"  while  Disraeli,  who  had  produced 
his  tragedy  "  Alarcos  "  the  previous  year,  turned  for  a  time 
from  literature.  The  Brontes  and  Kingsley  had  given 
nothing  as  yet;  the  Eossettis  were  children,  like  George 
Meredith,  then  twelve  years  old ;  and  among  those  who  in 
1840  first  saw  the  light  were  John  Addington  Symonds  and 
Thomas  Hardy. 


20    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

Meantime,  across  the  Atlantic,  Van  Buren  being  Presi- 
dent of  the  United  States,  Emerson  was  writing  his  "  Method 
of  Nature  " ;  Longfellow  his  "  Voices  of  the  Night " ;  Lowell, 
"  A  Year's  Life  " ;  Irving  on  his  side  contributing  "  Wolf ert's 
Boost"  to  the  "Knickerbocker,"  Willis  publishing  his  " Cor- 
sair," and  Poe  his  "  Tales  of  the  Grotesque." 

To  English  and  American  readers  those  imperfect  sum- 
maries may  give  some  idea  of  the  "  literary  movement "  in 
Great  Britain  and  the  United  States  at  the  time  when  Emile 
Zola  was  born.  But  what  of  his  own  country,  Trance? 
During  nearly  ten  years  Louis  Philippe  had  been  reigning 
there ;  and  a  few  months  later  the  ashes  of  Napoleon  were 
to  be  brought  back  from  St.  Helena ;  for  the  Orl&tns  mon- 
archy, which  had  now  reached  its  zenith,  imagined  itself  to 
be  quite  secure.  Indeed,  when  in  August,  that  same  year, 
the  great  conqueror's  nephew  descended  on  Boulogne,  with 
a  tame  eagle  upon  his  arm  and  a  proclamation  in  his  pocket, 
he  covered  himself  with  ridicule  instead  of  the  glory  he 
had  anticipated.  And,  again,  though  it  was  in  1840  that 
Louis  Blanc  first  issued  his  "  Organisation  du  Travail,"  be- 
fore beginning  his  "  Histoire  de  Dix  Ans,"  Eepublican  and 
Socialist  propaganda  was  not  as  yet  sufficiently  advanced 
to  bear  much  fruit. 

Literature  flourished,  and  cast  upon  the  reign  the  glory 
which  it  failed  to  glean  on  other  fields,  for  little  came  from 
Algerian  exploits,  however  dashing,  and  none  at  all  was 
harvested  by  an  adventurous  diplomacy.  But  a  generation 
of  remarkable  writers  had  arisen,  some  among  them  great, 
many  of  them  eminent  in  their  respective  spheres.  In  1840, 
no  doubt,  the  shadows  were  gathering  around  Chateaubriand, 
Casimir  Delavigne  could  see  his  transient  popularity  declin- 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     21 

ing,  Alfred  de  Vigny's  best  work  was  already  done;  but 
Hugo,  "  Victor  in  drama,  victor  in  romance/'  pursued  with 
undimmed  lustre  his  triumphal  course.  Moreover,  Lamar- 
tine  had  just  issued  his  "  Recueillements  po^tiques,"  and 
Musset  was  publishing  his  tales  in  prose.  Meantime, 
Michelet  and  the  Thierrys  gave  life  to  History ;  while  Ste. 
Beuve  —  when  not  wandering  after  petticoats,  and  meditat- 
ing on  that "  Livre  d' Amour  "  which  he  was  to  produce  three 
years  later,  and  afterwards  to  destroy,  as  far  as  possible,  with 
his  own  hands  —  was  penning  those  Monday  criticisms 
which  may  still  be  read  with  so  much  profit  as  well  as 
pleasure. 

Gautier  was  in  Spain,  having  left  the  critical  arm-chair 
of  "La  Presse"  to  the  gifted  and  ill-fated  Gerard  de  Nerval; 
but  Janin  discoursed  in  the  "  D£bats "  with  his  usual  flip- 
pancy, at  one  moment  suggesting  (in  ignorance  that  any 
"  Mrs.  Grundy "  would  ever  assert  herself)  that  Paul  de 
Kock  and  his  indecorum  were  best  suited  to  the  English 
taste,  whereas  Monsieur  de  Balzac  might  well  seek  popular- 
ity in  Russia.  Thither,  as  it  happened,  the  great  delineator 
of  "  La  Oom^die  Humaine  "  repaired  for  the  first  time  towards 
the  close  of  that  year,  which  found  him  in  a  despondent 
mood.  In  March,  "Vautrin"  had  been  produced  and 
promptly  laid  under  interdict,  because  Fr^ddrick  Lemaltre, 
who  impersonated  the  great  rascal,  had  "made  himself  a 
head  "  like  the  King's.  And  sixteen  volumes  and  twenty 
acts,  written  in  a  twelvemonth,  Balzac  complained,  had 
not  brought  him  freedom  from  pecuniary  worries,  even 
though  the  proceeds  amounted  to  one  hundred  and  fifty 
thousand  francs. 

If  Balzac  took  his  pecuniary  cares  to  heart,  there  was 


22    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOBMER 

little  if  any  fretting  on  the  part  of  tliat  splendid  prodigal 
the  great  Dumas,  who  now  issued  his  "  Chevalier  d'Harmen- 
tal,"  an  inferior  work,  no  doubt,  yet  one  which  showed  traces 
of  the  lion's  paw.  Sue's  contribution  to  the  literature  of 
1840,  "  La  Vigie  de  Koat-Ven,"  is  now  almost  forgotten ;  so 
is  Legouv^s  "  Edith  de  Falsen,"  though  it  ran  through  several 
editions.  Doubtless  one  of  the  most  popular  novels  of  the 
day  was  still  Charles  de  Bernard's  best  work,  "G-erfaut," 
the  fifth  edition  of  which  now  came  from  the  j>ress.  George 
Sand,  for  her  part,  was  penning  a  minor  work,  "  Pauline  "; 
Souli^  was  building  his  "  Chateau  des  Pyr6n3es  " ;  and  M&i- 
mde,  diffident  and  painstaking,  was  copying  and  modify- 
ing, sixteen  times  in  succession,  his  still  familiar  tale  of 
"  Colomba."  Stendhal  had  given  his  "  Chartreuse  de  Parme  " 
to  the  world  in  the  previous  year.  Flaubert  was  but  a 
young  man  of  nineteen,  travelling  in  southern  France  and 
plunging,  at  Marseilles,  into  a  transient  love  affair,  which 
was  to  suggest  an  episode  of  "  Madame  Bovary."  Finally, 
in  that  same  year,  1840,  —  within  six  weeks  after  the  birth 
of  Emile  Zola, — Alphonse  Daudet,  who  was  destined  to 
become  his  friend,  and,  in  a  sense,  his  rival  for  fame,  came 
into  the  world  at  Mmes  in  Provence. 

In  these  two,  Zola  and  Daudet,  was  repeated  a  phenome- 
non often  observed  in  the  history  of  French  literature :  the 
advent  of  a  superior  man  of  strong  masculinity,  attended  or 
soon  followed  by  that  of  another,  distinguished  by  femininity 
of  mini  Thus  Corneille  and  Racine,  Voltaire  and  Rous- 
seau,  Hugo  and  Lamartine,  Very  similar  was  the  decouple- 
ment  of  Zola  and  Daudet,  who,  the  one  appealing  to  the 
reason,  the  other  to  the  heart,  stood  in  the  domain  of  fiction, 
at  least  at  one  period  of  their  careers,  head  and  shoulders 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   REFORMEB      23 

above  every  contemporary.  Daudet  waged  his  battle  with 
a  quick  and  slender  rapier,  Zola  brandished  a  heavy  mace  — 
akin  to  those  redoubtable  weapons  with  which  the  warriors 
of  mediaeval  days  beat  down  the  helms  of  their  antagonists. 
Some,  too,  have  likened  Daudet  to  an  Arab  horse,  all  eager- 
ness and  nerves ;  while  Zola  has  been  called  a  cactus  of 
Provence  that  had  sprouted  between  the  paving-stones  of 
Paris.  The  great  city  was  his  birthplace,  and  he  was  proud 
of  it ;  yet  Provence  certainly  had  many  claims  on  him,  for 
there  he  was  conceived,  and  there,  as  the  following  pages 
will  show,  he  spent  the  greater  part  of  his  childhood  under 
circumstances  which  exercised  no  little  influence  on  his  dis- 
position, life,  and  work. 


II 

EAELY  YEAES 

1840-1860 

Francois  Zola  in  Paris  — A  rebuff  and  a  success  —  Progress  of  Ms  canal  scheme 
—  He  is  struck  down  by  the  "  mistral "  and  dies  —  His  obsequies  and  his 
grave  —  Difficulties  of  his  widow  and  son  —  Lawsuits  —  Aix,  a  city  of 
Philistines  or  of  enlightenment  ?  —  $mile  Zola,  a  spoilt  child  —  His  first 
schooling  and  first  chums  —  He  plays  the  truant  —  Declining  family  cir- 
cumstances —  Zola  is  sent  to  the  Aix  College  —  His  many  prizes,  and  his 
first  literary  attempts  —  The  college  and  its  masters  —  Zola,  Bailie,  and 
Cezanne ;  their  pranks  and  their  rambles  —  The  country  round  Ai*  — 
.Zola's  lines  on  Provence  —  He  is  influenced  by  Hugo  and  Musset —  Ideal 
love  :  Gratienne  and  Ninon  —  Increasing  family  penury  —  Madame  Zola 
seeks  help  in  Paris  —  She  is  joined  there  by  her  son  —  Zola  at  the  Lyce"e 
St.  Louis  —  He  is  ''ploughed"  for  a  degree  in  Paris  —  His  vacations  in 
Provence  —  Early  poetry  —  He  is  *'  ploughed  "  at  Marseilles  —  His 
studies  stopped  —  A  gloomy  outlook, 

THE  infancy  of  fertile  Zola  was  spent  in  Paris,  his  father's 
enterprises  compelling  tlie  family  to  remain  there  till  1843. 
Throughout  1840  the  engineer  was  preparing  plans  of  his 
fortification  scheme,  issuing  pamphlets,  corresponding  with 
Thiers,  and  interviewing  General  Despans-Cubi&res,  Minister 
of  War.  He  renewed  his  efforts  when  Thiers  fell  from  power 
and  was  succeeded  by  Marshal  Soult ;  but  he  was  unable  to 
overcome  the  stolid  indifference  of  General  Dode,  the  war- 
office  director  of  fortifications,  who,  without  even  examining 
his  plans,  reported  against  them  on  the  ground  that  the 
government  and  the  defence  committee  had  made  up  their 
minds  four  years  previously  with  respect  to  what  system 
should  be  adopted.  As  Soult  accepted  this  view  of  the 
matter,  Zola's  efforts  again  came  to  nothing.  His  only  con- 
solation was  that,  early  in  1841,  when  the  Paris  fortification 


tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   REFORMER     25 

bill  was  finally  discussed  by  the  legislature,  his  ideas  found 
supporters  in  General  Schneider  and  M.  Dufaure,  a  subse- 
quent prime  minister  of  France.1  A  better  result  attended 
Zola's  invention  of  an  appliance  for  removing  the  masses  of 
earth,  which,  he  foresaw,  would  be  thrown  up  in  digging  the 
moat  of  the  Paris  rampart.  He  patented  this  invention  in 
June,  1841,  and  after  his  appliance  had  been  constructed  at 
some  works  in  the  Eue  de  Miromesnil  in  1842,  it  was  em- 
ployed successfully  in  the  excavations  at  Clignancourt.2 

A  few  months  later  the  indomitable  engineer  again  turned 
to  his  scheme  for  providing  Aix  with  water.  Removing 
thither  with  his  wife  and  child,  he  signed,  in  April,  1843,  a 
new  agreement  with  the  municipality,  followed  in  June  by 
another  with  the  mayor  of  Le  Tholonet;  for  a  large  dam 
was  to  be  constructed  near  that  village,  at  the  entrance  of 
the  Internet  gorges.  But  although  Zola's  earlier  sugges- 
tions had  now  prompted  the  neighbouring  city  of  Marseilles 
to  cut  a  canal  from  Pertuis  on  the  Durance,  —  an  enterprise 
carried  out  by  a  distinguished  engineer  named  Montrichet 
between  1839  and  1849,  —  some  of  the  good  people  of  Aix 
and  its  vicinity  remained  uninfluenced  by  the  example,  and 
a  long  battle  ensued. 

The  waters  which  Zola  had  finally  decided  to  bring  to  Aix 
were  those  of  the  little  rivers  Causse  and  Bayou,  and  the 
interested  villages  were  gradually  won  over,  though,  now 
and  again,  territorial  magnates  like  the  Marquis  de  Galliffet, 
Prince  de  Martigues,  —  father  of  the  well-known  general 
officer  and  owner  of  the  chateau  of  Le  Tholonet,  —  remained 

*  "Le  Pere  d'imile  Zola/'  p,  212  et  seq.;  "La  Y6rit<§  en  Marclie,"  p,  295 
et  seq. 

a  Ibid.,  p.  306. 


26     &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOKMER 

hostile  to  the  scheme.  Fortunately  Zola,  besides  having  a 
good  friend  in  M.  Aude,  the  mayor  of  Aix,  obtained  support 
in  Paris,  notably  from  Thiers  and  Mignet,  whose  association 
•with  the  old  Provencal  city  is  well  known ;  and  thus,  in 
May,  1844,  he  obtained  a  royal  declaration  of  the  public 
utility  of  his  project,  with  leave  to  expropriate  landowners, 
purchase  land,  and  capture  water  on  terms  which  were  to  be 
arranged.  The  landowners,  however,  often  set  extravagant 
prices  on  their  property,  bitter  disputes  arose  over  valua- 
tions, and  all  sorts  of  authorities,  with  interests  at  stake, 
raised  one  and  another  claim  and  difficulty ;  the  Council  of 
State  at  last  having  to  re-adjust  Zola's  agreements  with 
municipalities  and  others,  in  such  wise  that  a  final  covenant 
was  only  signed  in  June,  1845.  Zola  then  returned  to  Paris 
with  his  wife  and  son,  for,  apart  from  all  municipal  help,  a 
considerable  amount  of  money  had  to  be  raised  for  the  en- 
terprise, and  it  was  not  until  midsummer,  1846,  that  the 
Zola  Canal  Company  was  at  last  constituted.1 

Then  the  engineer  went  southward  once  more.  One  reads 
in  contemporary  newspapers  that  the  great  struggle  had 
affected  his  health,  that  he  was  no  longer  so  strong  as 
formerly,  but  it  is  certain  that  he  felt  full  of  confidence. 
His  courageous  efforts  were  about  to  yield  fruit :  the  work 
was  begun,  the  first  sod  was  cut,  the  first  blasting  operations 
were  carried  out  successfully.  Zola  stood,  as  it  were,  on  the 
threshold  of  the  promised  land.  And  then,  all  at  once, 
destiny  struck  him  down.  One  morning,  after  three  months' 
toil,  while  he  was  superintending  his  men,  the  "mistral"  wind, 
that  scourge  of  southern  France,  descended  upon  the  valley 
where  they  were  working.  The  icy  blast  laid  its  clutch 
1  Soci&d  du  Canal  Zola  :  deeds  drawn  by  Maltre  Baudier,  Notary  in  Paris. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     27 

upon  Zola,  but,  although  he  already  felt  its  chill,  he  would 
not  defer  a  business  visit  to  Marseilles.  He  repaired  thither, 
installing  himself,  as  was  his  habit,  at  the  H6tel  de  la  M£di- 
terrande  kept  by  one  Moulet,  in  the  Rue  de  1'Arbre.  That 
same  night  he  was  attacked  by  pleurisy,  and  on  the  morrow 
it  became  necessary  to  summon  his  wife,  who  had  remained 
at  Aix.  All  remedies  proved  unavailing,  and  within  a 
week  he  expired  in  her  arms.  Thirty  years  afterwards  that 
sudden  death,  in  a  second-class  hotel,  amid  unpacked  trunks 
and  the  coming  and  going  of  heedless  travellers,  suggested 
to  Zola's  son  the  account  of  Charles  Grandjean's  death  given 
in  "  Une  Page  d' Amour." l 

It  was  on  Saturday,  March  27, 1847,  that  Fran§ois  Zola 
thus  passed  away.  His  remains  were  embalmed,  and  the 
obsequies  took  place  at  Aix  on  the  ensuing  Tuesday,  when 
the  clergy  went  in  procession  to  the  Place  de  la  Rotonde, 
beyond  the  walls,  to  receive  the  body  on  its  arrival.  The 
pall-bearers  were  the  sub-prefect,  the  mayor,  the  government 
district  engineer,  and  Maitre  Labot,  an  eminent  advocate  of 
the  Council  of  State  and  the  Court  of  Cassation,  who  had 
been  one  of  Zola's  leading  supporters.  The  capitular  clergy, 
headed  by  a  Canon-bishop  of  St.  Denis,  officiated  at  the  rites 
in  the  cathedral ;  and,  as  chief  mourner,  immediately  behind 
the  hearse,  when  escorted  by  the  civil  and  military  authori- 
ties it  took  the  road  to  the  cemetery,  between  crowds  of 
spectators,  there  walked  a  pale-faced  little  boy,  barely  seven 
years  of  age,  who  moved  as  in  a  dream.  In  after  years  he 
retained  little  recollection  of  his  father.  He  pictured  him 
best,  he  was  wont  to  say,  by  the  aid  of  all  that  his  mother 

1  Paul  Alexis*  "Simile  Zola:  Fotes  d'un  Ami/'  2d  edition,  Paris, 
1882,  p.  130.  £.  Zola's  "Una  Page  d'Amour,"  Paris,  1878,  pp.  20,  21. 


28    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMER 

tad  related  of  Ms  affectionate  tenderness,  his  unflagging 
energy,  Ms  Mgh  and  noble  views.  Thus  how  great  was  the 
son's  amazement,  indignation,  and  sorrow  when,  long  years 
afterwards,  unscrupulous  enemies  tried  to  make  the  world 
believe  that  his  father  had  been  a  thief. 

On  that  matter  the  reader  will  form  Ms  own  opinion,  and 
it  is  largely  to  enable  him  to  do  so  that  the  cMef  facts  of 
Franqois  Zola's  career  of  honourable  and  untiring  industry 
have  been  recapitulated  in  these  pages.  But  another  pur- 
pose also  has  been  served.  As  the  narrative  of  fimile  Zola's 
life  proceeds,  it  will  be  observed  how  truly  he  was  his  father's 
son,  evincing  in  manhood  the  same  energy,  industry,  and 
perseverance,  the  same  passion  to  strive  against  obstacles, 
and,  by  striving,  overcome  them.  In  his  case,  the  prompting 
of  inherited  nature  is  the  more  manifest  as  he  was  of  such 
tender  years  when  his  father  died,  and  thus  escaped  the 
influence  of  companionship  and  example,  wMch  so  often 
increase  the  resemblance  of  father  and  son.  Ah,  that  poor 
contemned  doctrine  of  heredity,  as  old  as  the  world  itself, 
how  could  Emile  Zola  fail  to  believe  in  it  when  he  himself 
was  a  striking  illustration  of  its  workings  ? 

Francois  Zola's  widow  placed  a  modest  slab  upon  her 
husband's  grave  in  the  cemetery  of  Aix,  in  which  she  herself 
was  to  be  laid  three  and  thirty  years  later.  A  cedar  shades 
the  tomb  from  the  flaring  sky  poised  over  that  glowing  field 
of  death,  whence  the  view  spreads  to  many  a  hill  and  moun- 
tain, clad  in  blue  and  purple.  And  on  the  slab,  which  is 
protected  by  iron  chains  dangling  from  granite  billets,  one 
reads  :  "Francois  Zola,  1795-1847.  Frangoise  Emilie  Zola, 
nle  Aubert,  1819-1880."  Aix,  however,  does  not  need  the 
presence  of  that  tomb  to  remind  it  of  one  of  its  most 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      29 

notable  benefactors.  Although  Frangois  Zola  died  when  his 
work  was  only  in  its  first  stage,  although  a  little  later  his 
original  scheme  was  foolishly  cut  down,  in  such  wise  as  to 
necessitate  other  subsequent  costly  undertakings,  and  al- 
though thirty-one  years  elapsed  before  the  water  he  had 
coveted  at  last  entered  Aix,  the  enterprise  he  planned  has 
always  been  known  popularly  as  the  Zola  Canal.  Further, 
after  its  completion  in  1868,  the  local  municipality  then  in 
office,  to  efface  in  a  measure  the  inconsiderate  treatment  of 
his  widow  and  his  son  by  previous  municipalities,  bestowed 
the  name  of  Boulevard  Fran§ois  Zola  on  a  thoroughfare  till 
then  called  the  Boulevard  du  Chemin-neuf.1 

The  expression  "inconsiderate  treatment "  is  certainly  not 
too  severe  a  one  to  be  applied  to  the  action  of  some  of  the 
authorities  of  Aix  in  their  dealings  with  Zola's  widow,  who, 
in  her  own  name  and  her  son's,  inherited  her  husband's  in- 
terest in  the  canal  scheme.  But  she  had  to  contend  also 
with  others  associated  with  the  work.  It  was  virtually  a 
repetition,  or  rather  a  variation,  of  the  familiar  story  of  the 
confiding  inventor  and  the  greedy  capitalist.  In  this  in- 
stance the  inventor  was  dead,  and  only  his  heirs  remained. 
He  had  fully  disclosed  his  scheme,  prepared  his  plans,  and 
others  were  eager  to  profit  by  them.  Thus  his  widow  and 
his  little  boy  were  gradually  regarded  as  incumbrances, 
nuisances.  Why  not  set  them  aside  ?  Why  not  rob  them  ? 
Are  not  the  widow  and  the  orphan  robbed  every  day  ?  Be- 
sides, it  is  often  easy  to  bamboozle  a  young  and  inexperienced 
woman  in  matters  of  law.  Already  at  this  time  Madame 
Zola's  parents  had  come  to  live  with  her  at  Aix ;  but  her 
father  was  aged,  and  deficient,  it  would  seem,  in  business  ca- 
*  "La  V&it6  en  Marche,"  p.  241. 


30      $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

pacity ;  while  her  mother,  however  bright,  active,  and  thrifty, 
was  not  the  woman  to  give  unimpeachable  advice  on  intricate 
legal  questions.  As  for  little  El  mile,  now  seven  years  old, 
he  did  not  even  know  his  letters ;  he  spent  happy,  careless 
days  in  the  sunshine,  blissfully  ignorant  that  trouble  was 
assailing  the  home,  and  would  some  day  destroy  it.  Yet 
it  was  he  who,  long  years  afterwards,  avenged  his  father  and 
his  mother,  in  the  only  manner  possibly  in  which  they 
could  be  avenged.  Perhaps  it  did  not  affect  the  despoilers 
personally ;  many  of  them,  indeed,  must  have  been  dead  at 
the  time,  and  those  who  survived  may  have  only  sneered, 
for  the  gold  was  theirs.  None  the  less  the  pictures  of  Aix 
and  its  society,  traced  in  four  or  five  volumes  of  the  Rougon- 
Macquart  novels,  were  instinct  with  retribution.  Aix  still 
raises  ineffectual  protests  whenever  it  hears  that  name  of 
Plassans  which  the  novelist  gave  it,  and  which,  though  its 
origin  was  simple  enough,  —  for  it  was  merely  a  modification 
of  Hassans,  the  name  of  a  village  near  Brignoles,  southeast 
of  Aix,  —  acquired  under  Zola's  caustic  pen  an  element  of 
opprobrium. 

The  displeasure  of  Aix  in  this  respect  has  been  the  more 
marked  as  the  city's  past  is  not  destitute  of  grandeur.  One 
of  the  earliest  stations  of  the  Romans  in  Gaul,  it  became  the 
metropolis  of  the  Second  Narbonensis ;  but  its  walls,  porti- 
coes, thermae,  arena,  and  temples  were  largely  destroyed 
when  the  Saracens  sacked  it  in  the  eighth  century,  and  few 
memorials  of  its  classic  era  now  exist.  As  the  capital  of 
Provence  in  the  days  of  "  good  King  Ren6,"  whose  court  was 
described  by  Scott  in  "Anne  of  Geierstein,"  Aix  regained 
some  lustre,  followed  half  a  century  later  by  a  period  of 
trouble,  many  of  its  mediaeval  monuments  being  wrecked 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      31 

during  the  struggle  between  Francis  I  and  Charles  V,  who 
was  crowned  King  of  Aries  in  the  fane  of  St.  Sauveur. 
Nevertheless,  girdled  by  picturesque  mountains,  with  its  old 
town,  new  town,  and  faubourg,  rich  in  stately  edifices,  pleas- 
ant promenades,  and  elegant  fountains,  Air  remains  one  of 
the  notable  cities  of  southern  France.  And  if,  administra- 
tively, as  the  French  say,  it  is  now  only  a  sub-prefecture  of 
the  department  of  the  Bouches-du-Rh6ne,  it  continues  to  be 
an  archbishop's  see,  and  retains  its  courts  of  justice  and  its 
faculties  of  theology,  law,  and  letters.  Its  university  is  per- 
haps its  greatest  boast,  though  it  is  also  proud  of  its  museum 
and  its  splendid  library,  which  is  known  to  scholars  all  the 
world  over.  Thus  Aix  claims  to  be  a  city  of  enlightenment, 
not  a  town  of  Philistines,  as  it  was  largely  pictured  by 
Smile  Zola;  but  one  must  remember  that  he  described 
things  as  they  were  in  his  time,  and  that  if  a  new  and  more 
active  generation  has  arisen  nowadays,  it  was  preceded  by 
others,  somnolent  and  neglectful. 

Aix  has  given  several  distinguished  sons  to  France :  the 
elder  Vanloo;  Vauvenargues,  the  moralist;  Mignet,the  his- 
torian ;  Brueys,  the  poet,  and  Brueys,  the  admiral  who  fell 
at  the  battle  of  the  Nile ;  Michel  Adanson  and  Piton  d0 
Tournefort,  the  eminent  naturalists ;  Frangois  Granet,  who 
translated  Newton  into  French,  and  Fran§oisMarius  G-ranet, 
his  nephew,  who  distinguished  himself  in  art,  and  became 
one  of  the  city's  benefactors.  Again,  Portalis,  the  great 
jurisconsult,  who  prepared  the  Concordat  which  still  binds 
France  and  the  Papal  See,  was  for  a  time  one  of  the  shin- 
ing lights  of  the  city ;  and  Thiers,  though  born  at  Mar- 
seilles, completed  his  studies  at  Aix,  took  his  degrees,  and 
was  called  to  the  b&r  there.  Curiously  enough,  the  house 


32      ^MILE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

where  TMers  liad  lived  in  his  student  days  was  the  first 
home  of  the  Zolas  at  Aix.  It  stood  at  the  end  of  a  strip  of 
road,  a  "  no  thoroughfare,"  called  picturesquely  the  Impasse 
Sylvacanne.  There  was  a  large  garden  to  the  house,  and  in 
that  garden  little  Emile  disported  himself  as  he  listed. 

His  mother  and  grandmother  spoilt  him,  as  the  saying 
goes.  His  father's  death  filled  them  with  indulgence  for  his 
childish  faults.  He  was  a  boy  to  be  petted  and  humoured, 
for  the  greatest  of  misfortunes  had  fallen  on  him.  Spending 
so  much  of  his  time  in  the  open  air,  he  was  becoming  quite 
a  sturdy  little  fellow,  sun-tanned,  with  soft,  thoughtful  eyes 
and  a  perky  nose,  and  his  incessant  questions  seemed  to  in- 
dicate the  possession  of  an  intelligent  and  eager  mind.  But, 
as  yet,  no  attempt  was  made  to  educate  him.  His  mother 
was  already  busy  with  her  lawyers,  striving  to  enforce  her 
claims,  and  endeavouring  also  to  obtain  influential  support. 
When  Thiers  came  to  Abe  some  four  months  after  !Fran§ois 
Zola's  death,  the  widow  presented  her  little  son  to  the  great 
man  in  the  hope  of  thereby  arousing  his  sympathy.  And 
Thiers  certainly  responded  with  fair  words,  though  whether 
he  went  further  is  doubtful.  At  all  events,  lawsuits  were 
started,  and  to  the  worry  they  entailed  one  must  ascribe 
the  comparative  neglect  in  which  young  Umile  remained  a 
little  longer. 

At  last,  in  the  autumn  of  1847,  it  was  decided  to  send 
him  to  school.  Some  doubt  as  to  the  result  of  the  lawsuits 
was  already  arising  in  the  minds  of  Madame  Zola  and ,  her 
parents,  and  they  felt  that  they  must  at  least  provide  for  the 
boy's  future  by  giving  him  a  sound  education.  It  was  sug- 
gested that  he  should  b©  sent  immediately  to  the  College  of 
Aix — now  called  the  Lyc^e  Mignet;  but  as  he  did  not 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     33 

even  know  his  letters,  Madame  Aubert,  his  grandmother, 
sensibly  decided  to  select  a  preparatory  school.  One  was 
found  near  the  Notre  Dame  gate,  from  which  it  derived  its 
appellation  of  Pension  Notre  Dame.  It  was  kept  by  a 
worthy  and  indulgent  pedagogue,  named  Isoard,  who  after 
infinite  trouble  —  for  the  boy  was  stubborn  and  bitterly  re- 
gretted his  careless  life  in  the  open  air  —  contrived  to  teach 
him  to  read  the  Fables  of  La  Fontaine.  It  was  at  this  time 
that  young  fimile  formed  his  earliest  life-friendships;  he 
became  attached  to  two  of  his  school-fellows,  one  of  whom, 
Solari,  a  sculptor  of  distinguished  talent,  is  still  alive,  while 
the  other,  Marius  Roux,  acquired  a  passing  reputation  as  a 
"  popular  "  novel  writer.1  These  two  were  Zola's  usual  play- 
mates at  marbles,  tops,  and  leap-frog,  his  first  companions 
also  in  the  rambles  in  which  he  began  to  indulge. 

For  some  reason  or  other,  Madame  Zola  and  the  Auberts 
moved  from  the  Impasse  Sylvacanne  to  the  Pont-de-Beraud, 
in  the  open  country,  on  the  road  to  Toulon,  and  then  young 
35  mile  had  fields  before  him  with  a  picturesque  stream,  the 
Torse,  so  called  on  account  of  its  capricious  windings  —  "a 
torrent  in  December,  the  most  timid  of  rivulets  in  the  fine 
weather,"  as  he  called  it  afterwards  in  his  "  Contes  a  Ninon." 
And  the  charms  of  the  country,  the  inviting  banks  of  the 
Torse,  often  made  a  truant  of  him,  —  a  truant  who  remained 
unpunished,  for  as  his  grandparents  generally  said  :  "  It  was 
not  right  to  cross  the  poor  fatherless  boy." 

The  position  of  the  family  was  now,  however,  becoming 
difficult.  The  widow's  savings  were  dwindling  away  in 


1  Among  Ms  works,  which  in  the  first  instance  generally  appeared 
letons  in  Paris  newspapers,  were  "Eugenie  Lamour,"  "  Francis  et  Mariette," 
'*  Les  Manages  Jannes,"  and  "Evariste  Planchn,  Moeurs  vraies  du  Quartier 
Latin,"  the  last  named  being  perhaps  his  best  book. 

8 


34      $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

legal  and  living  expenses ;  and  some  who  had  been  willing 
to  help  her  were  at  present  unable  to  do  so,  having  lost 
authority,  influence,  and,  at  times,  even  means.  France  had 
passed  through  a  revolution,  Louis  Philippe  had  been  over- 
thrown; unrest  was  widespread  throughout  the  period  of 
the  Second  Republic ;  and  when  Louis  Napoleon  strangled 
that  r'egime  in  the  night,  Provence  became  convulsed,  there 
were  risings,  excesses,  bloodshed,  even  as  Smile  Zola  sub- 
sequently depicted  in  the  pages  of  "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon." 
The  new  municipality  of  Aix,  appointed  after  the  Coup 
d'etat,  was  not  inclined  to  effect  any  reasonable  compromise 
with  those  Orl&nist  protiges,  the  Zolas.  One  on  whom 
they  had  largely  relied,  Thiers,  was  himself  virtually  a  fugi- 
tive. Again,  in  those  days  of  trouble  the  law's  delays  be- 
came greater  than  ever;  apart  from  which  it  would  seem 
that  Madame  Zola's  actions  were  altogether  ill-conducted. 
Nevertheless,  in  the  summer  of  1852,  though  her  affairs 
were  taking  a  very  unfavourable  course,  and  it  was  becom- 
ing necessary  to  trench  upon  the  investments  whence  the 
Auberts  derived  their  modest  personal  income,  it  was  at  last 
decided  to  send  Entile  to  the  College  of  Aix.  as  a  boarder ; 
and  the  family,  in  order  to  be  nearer  to  him,  moved  into  the 
town,  its  new  home  being  in  the  Rue  Bellegarde. 

The  boy  could  now  see  that  the  family  resources  were 
diminishing.  The  last  servant  had  been  dismissed,  and  it 
was  his  grandmother,  the  still  lively  and  sturdy  Beauceronne, 
who  attended  to  most  of  the  housework.  Moreover,  she 
and  her  daughter  had  largely  taken  the  lad  into  their  con- 
fidence, and  he,  precociously  realising  that  his  future  would 
most  likely  depend  on  his  own  exertions,  resolved  to  turn 
over  a  new  leaf.  Though  his  love  for  the  open  air  in  no 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      35 

wise  diminished,  he  studied  profitably  from  the  time  of 
entering  the  College  of  Aix  in  October,  1852.  He  was 
placed  in  the  seventh  class  (the  lowest  but  one),  and  at  the 
expiration  of  the  school  year,  in  August,  1853,  he  was  awarded 
first  prizes  for  history  and  geography,  recitation,  and  the 
translation  of  Latin  into  French,  and  second  prizes  for  gram- 
mar, arithmetic,  religious  instruction,  and  the  translation  of 
French  into  Latin.1  In  the  following  year,  in  the  sixth  class, 
he  was  less  successful,  some  antipathy,  it  is  said,  existing 
between  him  and  one  of  the  professors.2  Nevertheless,  his 
name  was  inscribed  on  the  tableau  d'honneur,  and  he  ob- 
tained a  first  prize  for  history  and  geography,  a  first  accessit 3 
in  religious  instruction,  and  third  accessits  in  excellence 
and  recitation. 

Next,  1854-1855,  he  passed  into  the  fifth  class,  in  which  he 
gained  two  first  prizes  for  Latin,  translation  and  composition  ; 
a  second  prize  for  the  translation  of  Greek  into  French ;  a 
first  accessit  in  excellence,  and  third  accessits  in  French,  his- 
tory, geography,  and  recitation.  At  the  end  of  the  ensuing 
school  year,  when  he  joined  the  fourth  class,  he  secured  four 
first  prizes  —  excellence,  Latin  composition,  Latin  verse, 
translation  from  Latin  into  French ;  and  three  second  prizes 
—  history  and  geography,  grammar,  and  Greek  exercise. 
Finally,  in  1856-1857  (his  last  completed  year,  spent  in  the 
third  class)  he  was  awarded :  the  tableau  d'honneur  prize,  first 
prizes  for  excellence,  French  composition,  arithmetic,  geom- 
etry, physics,  chemistry,  natural  history,  and  recitation; 
second  prizes  for  religious  instruction  and  translation  from 

1  "Palmares  dn  College  d'Aix,"  1853  **  seq. 

2  P.  Alexis,  1.  c.,  p.  21. 

8  An  accessit  is  a  distinction  conferred,  in  French  colleges,  on  the  three 
pupils  who  come  nearest  to  a  prize  winner. 


36      tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

the  Latin;  with  a  first  accessit  in  history  and  geography. 
He  was  then  in  Ms  eighteenth  year,  and  if  prize-winning 
might  be  taken  as  a  criterion,  there  was  every  likelihood 
that  he  would  achieve  a  distinguished  career. 

But  one  must  now  go  hack  a  little,  for  other  matters 
marked  those  school  days  at  Aix.  At  first  the  boy  boarded 
at  the  college,  then  he  became  a  half-boarder,  and  finally  an 
externe,  or  day  pupil,  taking  his  meals  at  home ;  these 
changes  being  necessitated  by  the  gradually  declining  posi- 
tion of  his  family.  Already  while  he  was  a  boarder,  that  is, 
barely  in  his  teens,  his  literary  bent  began  to  assert  itself,  a 
perusal  of  Michaud's  "Histoire  des  Croisades"  inspiring 
him  to  write  a  romance  of  the  middle  ages,  copiously  pro- 
vided with  knights,  Saracens,  and  fair  damsels  in  distress. 
That  boyish  effort,  though  the  almost  illegible  manuscript 
was  preserved  through  life  by  its  author,  remained  un- 
printed;  and  a  like  fate  attended  a  three-act  comedy  in 
verse,  entitled  "  Enfonc£  le  Pion,"  or  «  The  Usher  Outwitted/' 
However,  given  these  literary  leanings,  and  a  fervent  ad- 
miration for  some  of  the  poets,  as  will  presently  be  shown, 
it  may  at  first  seem  strange  that  on  entering  the  third  class 
in  1856,  and  being  called  upon  to  choose  between  letters 
and  sciences,  Zola,  then  over  seventeen,  should  have  selected 
the  latter.  In  this  respect,  as  Paul  Alexis  says,  he  was 
influenced  in  part  by  the  fact  that,  however  proficient  he 
might  be  in  the  dead  languages,  he  had  no  real  taste  for 
them,  whereas  the  natural  sciences  interested  him ;  but  his 
choice  was  also  partially  governed  by  the  fact  that  he  was 
the  son  of  an  engineer,  and  that  a  scientific  career  would  be 
in  accordance  with  his  parentage.  In  his  studies  he  was 
guided  by  one  simple,  self-imposed  rule,  a  rule  which  he 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     37 

carried  into  his  after-life,  and  winch  largely  proved  the 
making  of  him.  He  did  not  eschew  play  and  other  recrea- 
tion, he  did  not  spend  interminable  hours  in  poring  over 
books,  there  was  nothing  "goody-goody"  about  him;  but 
he  invariably  learnt  his  lessons,  prepared  his  exercises, 
before  he  went  to  play.  And,  all  considered,  no  more 
golden  rule  can  be  offered  to  the  schoolboy. 

Zola  and  his  disciple  Paul  Alexis,  who  also  studied  at 
the  Aix  College,  have  sketched  it  as  it  was  at  that  time  —  a 
former  convent,  old  and  dank,  with  a  somewhat  forbidding 
frontage,  a  dark  chapel,  and  grimly  barred  windows  facing 
a  quiet  little  square,  on  which  still  stands  the  rococo  foun- 
tain of  the  Four  Dolphins.  Within  the  gate  were  two  large 
yards,  one  planted  with  huge  plane  trees,  and  the  other 
reserved  chiefly  for  gymnastic  exercises,  while  all  around  were 
the  class-rooms,  the  lower  ones  dismal,  damp,  and  stuffy,  and 
the  upper  ones  more  cheerful  of  aspect,  with  windows  over- 
looking the  greenery  of  neighbouring  gardens.  The  refectory 
again  was  quite  a  den,  always  redolent  of  dish-water ;  but 
comparative  comfort  might  be  found  in  the  infirmary,  man- 
aged by  some  "gentle  sisters  in  black  gowns  and  white 
coifs."  The  masters,  if  Zola's  subsequent  account  of  them 
in  "L'GEuvre"  may  be  trusted,  were  generally  ridiculed  by 
the  boys,  who  gave  them  opprobrious  nicknames.  One, 
never  known  to  smile,  was  called  "  Rhadamantus  " ;  another, 
"  who  by  the  constant  rubbing  of  his  head  had  left  his  mark 
on  the  wall  behind  every  seat  he  occupied,  was  named, 
plumply,  €  Filth ' " ;  and  a  third  had  his  wife's  repeated  in- 
fidelity openly  cast  in  his  face. 

Of  course,  the  boys  also  had  their  nicknames,  Zola,  says 
Paul  Alexis,  acquiring  that  of  "Franciot,"  or  "Frenchy," 


38    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMER 

which  was  given  him  because  his  pronunciation  of  various 
words  differed  from  that  of  his  Provencal  school-fellows. 
This  was  not  to  be  wondered  at,  the  parent  to  whom  he 
owed  his  mother  tongue  being  a  Beauceronne.  Other  anec- 
dotes which  picture  him  suffering  from  an  impediment  in 
his  speech  may  be  taken  with  a  grain  of  salt,  perhaps,  as 
the  official  records  show  that  he  gained  prizes  and  accessits 
for  recitation.  As  had  been  the  case  at  the  Pension  Notre 
Dame,  he  formed  a  close  friendship  with  a  few  of  his  school- 
fellows. One  of  these  was  a  lawyer's  son,  named  Marguery, 
a  bright,  merry"  lad  with  musical  tastes,  who  a  few  years 
later,  to  the  general  amazement,  blew  his  brains  out  in  a  fit 
of  insanity.  Another  was  Antony  Valabrkgue,  afterwards  a 
tasteful  poet,  whose  family,  curiously  enough,  became  con- 
nected with  that  of  Captain  Dreyfus.  Valabr&gue  being 
some  years  younger  than  Zola,  their  companionship  at  school 
did  not  go  very  far;  but  they  subsequently  corresponded, 
and  intimacy  ensued  between  them.  At  the  college  Zola's 
more  particular  chums  were  Cezanne  and  Bailie,  the  former 
afterwards  well  known  as  an  impressionist  painter,  the 
second  as  a  professor  at  the  Ecole  Poly  technique.  Bailie, 
C&zanne,  and  Zola  became  inseparables ;  and  though  all  three 
were  fairly  diligent  pupils  in  class-time,  they  indulged  in 
many  a  boyish  prank  together  during  the  earlier  years  of 
their  sojourn  at  the  college. 

One  morning,  in  a  spirit  of  mischievousness,  they  burnt 
the  shoes  of  a  school-fellow,  a  lank  lad  called  Mimi4a-Mort, 
alias  the  Skeleton  Day  Boarder,  who  smuggled  snuff  into 
the  school.  Then  one  winter  evening  they  purloined  some 
matches  in  the  chapel  and  smoked  dry  chestnut  leaves  in 
reed  pipes  there.  Zola,  who  was  the  ringleader  on  that 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER       39 

occasion,  afterwards  frankly  confessed  his  terror;  owning 
that  a  cold  perspiration  had  come  upon  him  as  he  scrambled 
out  of  the  dark  choir.  Again,  another  day,  C&anne  hit 
upon  the  idea  of  roasting  some  cock-chafers  in  Ms  desk  to 
see  whether  they  were  good  to  eat,  as  people  said  they  were. 
So  terrible  became  the  stench,  so  dense  the  smoke,  that  the 
usher  rushed  for  some  water,  under  the  impression  that 
the  place  was  on  fire.  At  another  time  they  sawed  off  the 
wooden  seats  in  one  of  the  courtyards,  and  carried  them  like 
corpses  round  the  basin  of  so-called  ornamental  water  in  the 
centre*  of  the  yard,  other  boys  joining  them,  forming  in  pro- 
cession, and  singing  funeral  dirges.  But  in  the  midst  of  it 
all,  Bailie,  who  played  the  priest,  tumbled  into  the  basin 
while  trying  to  scoop  some  water  into  his  cap,  which  was  to 
have  served  as  a  holy-water  pot.1 

The  three  inseparables  engaged  also  in  many  a  stone- 
throwing  fight  with  the  town  lads,  clambered  over  the  old, 
crumbling,  ivy-clad  ramparts,  and  basked  on  "  King  Rent's 
chimney  "  2  on  occasions  when  the  mistral  thundered  by,  — 
"  buffeting  the  houses,  carrying  away  their  roofs,  dishevelling 
the  trees,  and  raising  great  clouds  of  dust,  while  the  sky 
became  a  livid  blue,  and  the  sun  turned  pale,"  3  There  were 
excursions  also,  sometimes  by  way  of  escorting  regiments, 
which  on  changing  garrison  passed  through  the  town,  at 
other  moments  on  the  occasion  of  religious  processions  when 

1  Zola's  "L'CEuvre,"  Chap.  II. 

2  "  If  it  is  good  King  Rene"  whom  you  seek,  you  will  find  Mm  at  this  time 
walking  in  his  chimney  .  .  .  the  narrow  parapet  yonder ;  it  extends  between 
these  two  towers,  has  an  exposure  to  the  south,  and  is  sheltered  in  every  other 
direction.    Yonder  it  is  his  pleasure  to  walk  and  enjoy  the  "beams  of  the  sun 
on  such  cool  mornings  as  the  present.    It  nurses,  he  says,  his  poetical  vein." 
—  Scott's  "  Anne  of  Geierstein,"  Chap.  XXIX. 

*  Zola's  "  Le  Docteur  Pascal." 


40     SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

the  clergy  appeared  in  their  finest  vestments,  their  acolytes 
swinging  censers  and  ringing  bells,  the  military  and  muni- 
cipal bands  discoursing  music,  the  white-gowned  girls  carry- 
ing banners,  and  the  boys  scattering  roses  and  golden  broom. 
Although  fimile  Zola  eventually  lost  all  faith  in  the 
dogmas  of  the  Roman  Church,  the  pomp  of  its  cult  impressed 
him  throughout  his  life,  as  is  shown  by  many  passages  in 
his  works.  And  in  his  boyhood  the  processions  of  Aix 
delighted  him.  He  himself  sometimes  took  part  in  them  — 
acting  on  at  least  one  occasion,  in  1856,  as  a  clarionet  player 
of  the  college  fanfare,  for  his  friend  Marguery  had  imparted 
to  him  some  taste  for  music. 

•  Then  as  now  Aix  had  its  theatre,  which  Zola  and  his 
young  friends  patronised  whenever  they  could  afford  a  franc 
for  a  pit  seat ;  but  they  eschewed  cafi  life  and  the  gambling 
which  usually  attends  it  in  the  provinces,  for  whenever 
they  had  time  at  their  disposal  they  infinitely  preferred  to 
roam  the  country.  The  environs  of  Aix  are  strangely  pic- 
turesque. There  is  the  famous  Mont  Ste.  Victoire,  ascended 
through  thickets  of  evergreen'  oaks  and  holly,  pines,  wild 
roses,  and  junipers,  till  at  last  only  some  box  plants  dot  the 
precipitous  slopes,  veined  like  marble;  while  in  a  cavern 
near  the  summit  is  the  weird  bottomless  pit  of  Le  Garagay, 
whose  demon-spirits  Margaret  of  Anjou  vainly  interrogated 
in  "Anne  of  Geierstein."  Again,  there  is  the  historic  castle 
of  Vauvenargues,  the  ruined  castle  of  Puyricard,  the  her- 
mitage of  St.  Honorat;  and  there  are  other  mountainous 
hills  with  goat  paths,  gorges,  and  ravines,  and  also  stretches 
of  plain,  watered  now  by  the  Arc  or  the  Torse,  now  by  the 
canal  which  Fran§ois  Zola  planned.  In  his  son's  youth 
that  canal  had  not  yet  transformed '  the  thirsty  expanse; 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER    41 

when  13 mile  roamed  the  region  with  his  friends  "the  red 
and  yellow  ochreous  fields,  spreading  under  the  oppressive 
sun,  were  for  the  most  part  planted  merely  with  stunted 
almond  and  olive  trees,  with  branches  twisted  in  positions 
which  seemed  to  suggest  suffering  and  revolt.  Afar  off, 
like  dots  on  the  bare  stripped  hills,  one  saw  only  the  white- 
walled  "bastides,  each  flanked  by  dark,  bar-like  cypresses. 
The  vast  expanse  was  devoid  of  greenery ;  but  on  the  other 
hand,  with  the  broad  folds  and  sharply  defined  tints  of  its 
desolate  fields,  it  possessed  some  fine  outlines  of  a  severe, 
classic  grandeur."1 

Apart  from  the  plain,  but  very  characteristic  of  the  region, 
were  the  Internet  gorges,  near  which  Francois  Zola  planned 
one  of  his  huge  reservoirs.  There  one  found  "a  narrow 
defile  between  giant  walls  of  rock  which  the  blazing  sun 
had  baked  and  gilded.  Pines  had  sprung  up  in  the  clefts. 
Plumes  of  trees,  appearing  from  below  no  larger  than  tufts 
of  herbage,  fringed  the  crests  and  waved  above  the  chasm. 
This  was  a  perfect  chaos.  With  its  many  sudden  twists, 
its  streams  of  blood-red  soil,  pouring  from  each  gash  in  its 
sides,  its  desolation  and  its  solitude,  disturbed  only  by  the 
eagles  hovering  on  high,  it  looked  like  some  spot  riven  by 
the  bolts  of  heaven,  some  gallery  of  hell."  2 

There  were  also  the  villages,  whose  houses,  at  times,  were 
mere  hovels  of  rubble  and  boards,  some  squatting  amid 
muck-heaps,  and  dingy  with  woeful  want;  others  more 
roomy  and  cheerful,  with  roofs  of  pinkish  tiles-  Strips  of 
garden,  victoriously  planted  amid  stony  soil,  displayed  plots 
of  vegetables  enclosed  by  quickset  hedges.  Much  of  the 
aridity  of  the  region  had  arisen  from  the  ruthless  def orest- 

i  "  Le  Docteur  Pascal."  *  Ibid. 


42      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

ing  of  the  hills ;  formerly  the  falling  leaves  had  spread  rich 
vegetable  soil  over  the  mountain  flanks,  there  had  been  good 
pasture  for  sheep  where  barren  crags  alone  were  left,  and 
the  climate,  equalised  by  the  moisture  of  the  woods,  had 
been  less  abrupt  and  violent  in  its  changes.1  Yet,  in  Zola's 
youth,  as  now,  "  wherever  there  was  the  smallest  spring,  the 
smallest  brook,  the  glowing  land  still  burst  into  powerful 
vegetation,  and  a  dense  shade  prevailed,  with  paths  lying 
deep  and  delightfully  cool  between  plane  trees,  horse-chest- 
nuts, and  elms,  all  growing  vigorously." 2 

Those  various  scenes  were  a  delight  to  Zola  and  his 
friends.  "  They  craved  for  the  open  air,  the  broad  sunlight, 
the  sequestered  paths  in  the  ravines.  They  roamed  the 
hills,  rested  in  green  nooks,  returned  home  at  night  through 
the  thick  dusk  of  the  highways.  In  winter  they  relished 
the  cold,  the  frosty,  gaily  echoing  ground,  the  pure  sky> 
and  the  sharp  atmosphere.  In  summer  they  always  assem- 
bled beside  the  river  —  the  willow-fringed  Arc  —  for  the 
water  then  became  their  supreme  passion,  and  they  spent 
whole  afternoons  bathing,  swimming,  paddling,  and  stretch- 
ing themselves  to  dry  on  the  fine  sun-warmed  sand.  In  the 
autumn  they  became  sportsmen  —  inoffensive  ones,  for  there 
is  virtually  no  game,  scarcely  even  a  rabbit,  in  the  district, 
and  at  the  most  one  might  bring  down  an  occasional  petty- 
chap,  fig-pecker,  or  some  other  small  bird.  But  if,  now  and 
again,  they  fired  a  shot,  it  was  chiefly  for  the  pleasure  of 
making  a  noise,  and  their  expeditions  always  ended  in  the 
shade  of  a  tree,  where  they  lay  on  their  backs,  chatting 
freely  of  their  preferences." 8 

*  "  The  Athenaeum,"  No.  3686,  June  18,  1898,  p.  785, 

*  "  Le  Docteur  Pascal/' 

8  Zola's  "  Documents  LitteYaires,"  p.  88  (abbreviated). 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOKMEE      43 

A  little  later,  when  Zola's  young  muse  essayed  her  flight, 
he  recalled  those  days  of  Provence,  singing : 

"  0  Provence,  des  pleurs  s'e'chappent  de  mes  yeux 
Quand  vibre  sur  anon  luth  ton  nom,  me'lodieux.  .  .  » 
0  region  d'amour,  de  parfum,  de  lumiere, 
II  me  serait  bien  doux  de  t'appeler  ma  mere.  .  .  . 
Autour  d'Aix,  la  romaine,  il  n'est  pas  de  ravines, 
Pas  de  rochers  perdus  au  penchant  des  collines, 
Dans  la  valise  en  fleur  pas  de  lointains  sentiers, 
Ou,  Ton  ne  puisse  voir  Fempreinte  de  mes  pieds.  .  .  . 
ficolier  £chapp6  de  la  docte  prison, 
Et  jetant  aux  £chos  son  rire  et  sa  chanson, 
Adolescent  reVeur  poursuivant  sous  tes  sanies 
La  nymphe  dont  il  croit  voir  blanchir  les  e*paules, 
Jusqu'aux  derniers  taillis  j'ai  couru-tes  for£ts, 
0  Provence,  e*t  fou!6  tes  lieux  les  plus  secrets. 
Mes  Idvres  nommeraient  chacune  de  tes  pierres, 
Chacun  de  tes  buissons  perdus  dans  tes  clairieres. 
J'ai  jou^  si  longtemps  sur  tes  coteaux  fleuris, 
Que  brins  d'herbe  et  graviers  me  sont  de  vieux  amis." 1 

Those  rambles  undoubtedly  helped  to  rouse  a  sense  of 
poetry  in  Zola  and  his  companions.  Besides  providing 
themselves  with  provisions,  —  at  times  a  small  joint  of  raw 
mutton  and  some  salad  plants,  which  they  cooked  or  dressed 
in  the  wilds,  —  they  carried  books,  volumes  of  the  poets,  in 
their  pockets  or  their  bags.  One  year,  1856,  Victor  Hugo 
reigned  over  them  like  an  absolute  monarch.  They  were 
conquered  by  the  majesty  of  his  compositions,  enraptured 
by  his  powerful  rhetoric.  His  dramas  haunted  them  like 
splendid  visions.  After  being  chilled  by  the  classic  mono- 
logues which  they  were  compelled  to  learn  by  heart  at  the 
college,  they  felt  warmed,  transported  into  an  orgy  of  quiv- 
ering ecstacy,  when  they  lodged  passages  of  "Hernani"  and 
"Buy  Bias"  in  their  minds.  Many  a  time,  on  the  river- 

i  Zola's  "  L'A&ienne  "  (1860)  in  Alexis,  I  c.,  p.  265  et  se$. 


44    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

bank,  after  bathing,  they  acted  some  scenes  together.1  In- 
deed, they  knew  entire  plays,  and  on  the  way  home,  in  the 
twilight,  they  would  adapt  their  steps  to  the  rhythm  of 
those  lines  which  were  sonorous  like  trumpet-blasts.  But 
a  day  came  when  one  of  them  produced  a  volume  of  Alfred 
de  Musset's  poems,  the  perusal  of  which  set  their  hearts 
quivering.  From  that  hour  their  worship  for  Hugo  received 
a  great  blow,  his  lines  fled  from  their  memories,  and 
Musset  alone  reigned  over  them.  He  became  their  con- 
stant companion  in  the  hollows,  the  grottoes,  the  little 
village  inns  where  they  rested ;  and,  again  and  again,  they 
read  "  Rolla  "  or  the  «  Nights,"  aloud.2 

Thus  their  young  natures  awoke  to  love.  Cezanne  and 
Bailie  were  then  about  eighteen  years  of  age;  Zola  was 
seventeen.  But  their  aspirations  remained  full  of  ideality. 
There  were  a  few  brief,  uncertain  attempts  at  love-making, 
nipped  in  the  bud  by  circumstances.  Already,  before  the 
time  we  have  now  reached,  Zola,  or  his  musically  minded 
friend  Marguery,  or  perhaps  both,  had  nursed  a  boyish 
flame  for  the  fair-haired  daughter  of  a  local  haberdasher,  and 
had  serenaded  her  in  company,  the  former  with  his  clarionet, 
the  latter  with  a  cornet-&~piston,  until  one  evening  the  indig- 
nant parents  emptied  their  water-jugs  over  them.  Later 
Zola  dreamt  of  encountering  "fair  beings  in  his  rambles, 
beautiful  maidens,  who  would  suddenly  spring  up  in  some 
strange  wood,  charm  him  for  a  whole  day,  and  melt  into  air 
at  dusk." 8  And  at  last  a  young  girl,  Gratienne,  flits  by  in 
the  moonlight  near  the  Clos  des  Chartreux,  with  her  heavy 

1  Zola's  "  Nos  Auteurs  Dramatizes,'7  p.  42, 

2  "  Documents  Litt&aires,"  p.  90. 
*  "  I/CEuvry  Chap.  II, 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       45 

tresses  of  raven  hair  resting  on  her  young  white  neck  ;  1  but 
even  she  remains  little  more  than  a  vision,  and  as  yet, 
neither  into  Zola's  life  nor  his  friends'  does  woman,  the  real 
creature  of  flesh  and  blood,  really  enter,  to  achieve  that 
work  of  disillusion  by  which  she  almost  invariably  destroys 
the  youthful  ecstacy  which  she,  or  her  semblance,  has  in- 
spired. Ninon,  the  Ninon  of  the  "Contes,"2  comes  later. 
As  yet  she  is  only  dreamt  of,  though  the  name  by  which 
she  is  to  be  known  to  the  world  is  already  suggested  by  an 
old  gravestone  in  the  cemetery,  with  only  the  word  "  Nina  " 
remaining  of  its  time-worn  inscription  : 

"  Ami,  te  souviens-tu  de  la  tombe  noircie, 

Tout  ail  bord  d'une  all^e,  a  demi  sous  les  fleurs, 
Qui  nous  retint  longtemps,  et  nous  laissa  reveurs  ? 

Le  marbre  en  est  ronge  par  les  vents  et  la  pluie. 
Elle  songe  dans  1'herbe  et,  discrete,  se  tait, 

"   Souriante  et  sereine  au  blond  soleil  de  mai. 

"  Elle  songe  dans  1'herbe,  et,  de  sa  reverie, 
'.  La  tombe,  chastement,  &  ceux  qui  passent  la, 
Ne  livre  que  le  nom  effac6 


Ami,  te  souviens-tu,  nous  la  rev&mes  belle, 
Et  depuis,  bien  souvent,  sans  jamais  parler  d'elle, 
Nos  regards  se  sont  dit,  dans  un  dernier  regret  r 
*  Si  je  1'avais  connue,  oh  !  Ninette  vivrait  !  '  "  * 

But  serious  trouble  was  now  impending  in  Zola's  home. 
While  he  studied  at  the  college,  while  his  heart  opened  and 

1  Zola's  Yerses,  "  A  mes  Amis  "  (Lycee  St.  Louis,  1858). 

2  Zola's  first  book,  inspired  largely  by  memories  of  Provence,  and  issued  in 
Paris  in  1864. 

*  Zola's  "Nina,"  1859.  Readers  of  "La  Fortune  des  Kougon"  (which 
Zola  wrote  some  ten  years  later)  will  remember  that  the  old  tombstone  figures 
also  in  that  work,  in  which  the  inscription  is  given  as  "Here  lieth  .  ,  .  Marie 
.  .  »  died  .  .  .  ,"  the  finger  of  time  having  effaced  the  rest.  There  is,  how- 
ever, an  evident  connection  between  the  names  Nina  and  Ninon,  and  perhaps 
they  suggested  Nana. 


46      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMER 

Ms  mind  expanded,  the  position  of  his  mother  and  grand- 
parents gradually  became  desperate.  All  the  savings,  even 
the  Auberts*  funds,  were  exhausted;  the  lawsuits  still 
dragged  on,  entailing  heavy  costs,  which  drained  the  home 
of  all  resources.  Already  in  1855,  the  rent  in]  the  Kue 
Bellegarde  proving  too  heavy,  it  became  necessary  to  take 
a  cheaper  lodging  on  the  Cours  des  Minimes.  Then,  early 
in  1857,  that  also  was  found  too  dear ;  and  two  little  rooms 
were  rented  at  the  corner  of  the  Eue  Mazarine.  They  over- 
looked the  Barri,1  a  lane-like  chemin-de-ronde  encompassing 
the  old  town,  with  small  and  sordid  houses  on  one  hand, 
and  the  crumbling  ramparts  on  the  other. 

Here  black  ruin  fell  upon  the  Zolas  and  the  Auberts. 
The  aged  but  active  grandmother  toiled  to  the  very  last, 
managing  the  household,  raising  money  on  goods  and  chat- 
tels, resisting  the  wolf  at  the  door  with  all  the  energy  of 
despair.  Bit  by  bit,  every  superfluous  article  of  furniture 
was  sold;  remnants  of  former  finery  were  carried  to  the 
wardrobe  dealers,  to  obtain  the  means  of  purchasing  daily 
bread  and  paying  Smile's  college  fees.  As  for  the  lawsuits, 
they  remained  in  abeyance  from  lack  of  funds.  And  blow 
following  blow,  poor  Madame  Aubert  could  at  last  resist  no 
longer,  but  sickened  and  died.  That  happened  in  Novem- 
ber, 1857.  During  the  previous  month  Emile  Zola  had 
returned  to  the  college,  entering  the  second  class.  Towards 
Christmas  his  despairing  mother  started,  alone,  for  Paris,  to 
implore  the  help  of  some  of  the  personages  who  had  for- 
merly favoured  her  husband.  The  old  and  almost  helpless 
Monsieur  Aubert  remained  at  Aix  with  his  young  grand- 
son, who,  after  an  anxious  period  of  suspense,  received 
1  From  the  mediaeval  Latin,  bamum  (Duoange). 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   EEFOEMER      47 

in  February  a  letter  from  Ms  mother,  running  much  as 
follows : 

"  It  is  no  longer  possible  to  continue  living  at  Aix:.  Sell 
the  little  furniture  that  is  left.  You  will  in  any  case  obtain 
sufficient  money  to  enable  you  to  take  third-class  tickets  to 
Paris  for  yourself  and  your  grandfather.  Manage  it  as  soon 
as  possible.  I  shall  be  waiting  for  you." 

Young  Smile  acted  in  accordance  with  those  instructions, 
but  he  could  not  tear  himself  away  from  Aix  tod  his  friends 
without  making  with  the  latter  a  farewell  excursion  to  Le 
Tholonet  and  the  larrage  of  the  canal  reservoir  planned  by 
his  father.  When  he  at  last  took  the  train  with  old  M. 
Aubert,  his  heart  was  heavy  at  the  thought  that  he  might 
never  see  Provence  again.  But  in  that  respect  his  fears 
were  not  realised. 

On  reaching  Paris,  he  found  his  mother  residing  at  No.  63 
Eue  Monsieur-le-Prince,  near  the  Luxembourg  palace.  She 
had  obtained  some  assistance  from  friends,  one  of  whom, 
Maitre  Labot,1  recommended  15  mile  to  D&sir£  Nisard,  the 
critic  and  historian,  famous  for  having  tried  to  demon- 
strate that  there  were  two  moralities ;  and  Nisard  speedily 
procured  him  a  free  scholarship  at  the  Lycde  or  college  of 
St.  Louis.  This  was  by  Madame  Zola's  express  wish,  for, 
however  great  might  be  her  misfortunes,  she  desired  that 
her  son  might  continue  his  studies. 

But  Paris  now  seemed  a  horrible  place  to  the  youthful 
Smile.  All  was  gloom  there.  Orsini,  Pieri,  and  Eudio  had 
attempted  the  life  of  Napoleon  III  outside  the  opera-house 
a  few  weeks  previously,  and  a  kind  of  terror  prevailed  under 
the  iron  rule  of  General  Espinasse  and  the  new  Law  of 

i  See  ante,  p.  27. 


48     SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOKMER 

Public  Safety.  Zola  regretted  the  hills  and  the  sun  of  Pro- 
vence, the  companionship  of  Bailie  and  Cdzanne ;  he  felt  lost 
among  his  new  school-fellows,  four  hundred  in  number ;  and 
his  poverty  and  shabbiness  increased  his  bitterness  of  spirit, 
for  the  lads  attending  St.  Louis  were  all  more  fortunately 
circumstanced  than  himself.  That  Lyc^e,  which  then  faced 
the  Eue  de  la  Harpe  —  the  transformation  of  the  old  Quar- 
tier  Latin  by  the  tracing  of  the  Boulevard  St.  Michel  being 
as  yet  uneffected  —  ranked  third  among  the  great  colleges 
of  Paris ;  and  among  those  who  had  sat  on  its  benches 
were  the  second  Dr.  Baron  Corvisart,  Gounod  the  com- 
poser, Egger  the  Hellenist  and  poet,  Havet  the  Latinist 
and  historian  of  early  Christianity,  and  Nettement,  whose 
account  of  French  literature  under  the  Restoration  isi 
still  worthy  of  perusal.  Other  pupils,  before  Zola's  time, 
were  Henri  Eochefort  the  erratic  journalist  and  politician, 
Charles  Floquet  the  advocate,  who  became  prime  minister 
of  France ;  Dr.  Tripier,  one  of  the  pioneers  in  the  application 
of  electricity  to  medicine,  and  the  well-known  General  de 
Galliffet.  Many  of  the  professors  also  were  able  men  who 
rose  to  eminence,  and  in  such  a  college  one  might  have 
thought  that  Zola  would  have  made  decisive  progress. 

As  it  happened,  he  not  only  got  on  badly  with  his  school- 
fellows,—  who  on  account  of  the  southern  accent  he  had 
acquired  in  Provence  nicknamed  him  the  "  Marseillese," 
—  but,  yielding  to  a  brooding  spirit,  he  neglected  his 
lessons.  It  was  only  in  French  composition  that  he  occa- 
sionally distinguished  himself.  One  day,  it  appears,  when 
the  allotted  subject  was  "Milton  dictating  'Paradise  Lost' 
to  his  daughter,"  he  treated  it  so  ably  that  the  professor, 
M.  Levasseur,  —  the  eminent  historian  of  the  French  work- 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER    49 

ing  classes,  —  publicly  complimented  him.  Truth  to  tell,  he 
now  read  a  great  deal,  even  in  class  time,  still  devouring  the 
poets,  but  finding  a  delight  also  in  Eabelais,  Montaigne,  and 
other  prose  authors.  And  he  carried  on  an  interminable 
correspondence  with  his  friends  in  Provence,  at  times  ad- 
dressing them  in  verse,  at  others  launching  into  discussions 
on  philosophy,  morals,  and  aesthetics.  It  was  now,  too,  that 
he  wrote  his  tale, "  La  Fde  Amoureuse,"  which  was  therefore 
the  earliest  of  his  "  Contes  k  Ninon,"  in  which  volume  it 
afterwards  appeared.  Thus,  in  spite  of  his  declared  prefer- 
ence for  a  scientific  career,  his  literary  bent  was  steadily 
asserting  itself. 

At  the  end  of  his  school  year  his  only  award  was  a  second 
prize  for  French  composition.  Nevertheless,  his  mother, 
having  scraped  a  little  money  together,  allowed  him  to  go  to 
Provence  for  the  vacation,  which  he  spent  with  Bailie  and 
C&sanne.  But  on  coming  back  to  Paris  in  October  he  fell  ill 
with  a  mucous  fever  of  such  severity  that  more  than  once  a 
fatal  issue  was  feared.  When,  after  a  period  of  convales- 
cence, he  returned  to  St.  Louis,  there  entering  the  rhetoric 
class,  two  months  had  been  lost  and  he  still  felt  weak. 
Thus,  though  his  new  master,  M.  Lalanne,  commended  some 
of  his  work,  notably  his  compositions,  his  progress  was 
not  great,  particularly  as  his  mind  turned  so  frequently  to 
Provence  and  his  friends  there,  and  hesitated  between  the 
scientific  avocations  of  his  choice  and  an  increasing  ambition 
to  become  a  poet.  When,  however,  the  school  year  ended 
in  August,  1859,  his  mother's  position  being  as  precarious  as 
ever,  he  resolved  to  make  an  effort.  He  would  skip  the 
philosophy  class  and  at  once  offer  himself  as  a  candidate 
for  the  degree  of  bachelor  in  sciences  —  that,  or  a  corre- 


50      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

sponding  degree  in  letters,  being  a  necessary  passport  for 
eventual  admission  into  the  recognised  professions  or  the 
government  service. 

The  result  of  Zola's  attempt  was  singular.  In  his  written 
examination  he  proved  very  successful,  his  name  appearing 
second  on  the  list ;  but  in  the  ensuing  mvft-wce  examina- 
tion, after  securing  good  marks  in  physics,  chemistry,  and 
natural  history,  fair  ones  in  pure  mathematics,  algebra, 
and  trigonometry,  he  collapsed  in  literature  and  modern 
languages.  He  post-dated  Charlemagne's  death  by  five 
hundred  years,  scandalised  the  examiner  by  a  romantic 
interpretation  of  one  of  La  Fontaine's  fables,  and  virtually 
confessed  his  utter  ignorance  of  German.  Thus  his  mark 
was  zero ;  and  though,  it  would  seem,  the  examiners  in 
sciences  interceded  in  his  favour  with  the  examiner  in  lelles 
lettres,  the  latter  remained  obdurate  and  would  not  modify 
the  mark.  Zola  was  therefore  "  sent  back,"  for  it  was  not 
allowable  that  a  bachelor  in  sciences  should  be  absolutely 
nul  en  litterature.1 

Several  years  previously  Alexandre  Dumas  fits  had  been 
"  ploughed "  for  the  very  same  reason.  Two  distinguished 
men  of  Zola's  own  generation,  Alphonse  Daudet  and  Fran- 
<jois  Coppfe,  also  failed  to  secure  bachelors'  degrees ;  yet,  like 
Zola  himself,  they  became  eminent  writers.  Of  course  it  is 
impossible  to  found  any  valid  argument  for  or  against 
degrees  on  a  few  isolated  instances.  It  may  be  doubted, 
perhaps,  whether  they  are  any  great  recommendation  to  the 
literary  man  who  is  a  dramatist  or  a  novelist  or  a  poet. 
But  Zola's  literary  aspirations  did  not  enter  into  his  scheme 
when  he  offered  himself  for  examination ;  he  merely  wished 

1  Alexis,  L  c.t  pp.  40,  41. 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    51 

to  secure  a  certificate,  as  it  were,  qualifying  him  for  em- 
ployment in  one  of  the  semi-scientific  hranches  of  the  gov- 
ernment service.  In  that  respect  his  failure  was  a  severe 
disappointment,  particularly  to  his  mother,  who  had  set  all 
her  hopes  upon  him,  and  was  distressed  to  find  that  the 
promise  of  his  college  days  at  Aix  remained  unfulfilled.  At 
the  same  time,  mother-like,  she  blamed  the  examiners  more 
than  she  blamed  him,  and  once  more  she  provided  him  with 
enough  money  to  spend  the  summer  vacation  in  Provence.1 
A  week  after  he  had  been  "  ploughed  "  at  the  Sorbonne,  Zola 
was  again  roaming  the  hills,  in  a  blouse  and  hob-nailed 
boots,  accompanied  by  his  usual  intimates. 

There  was  also  no  little  writing  of  poetry  on  Zola's  part 
during  those  holidays,  the  influence  of  Musset  still  being  in 
the  ascendant,  as  is  shown  by  a  piece  entitled  "  Rodolpho," 
in  which  one  can  further  detect  the  change  which  Parisian 
life,  particularly  that  of  the  Quartier  Latin,  where  he  had 
his  home,  was  now  effecting  in  the  youth  who  had  awoke, 
in  Provence,  to  little  more  than  ideal  love.  Musset  like- 
wise inspires  some  verses  entitled  "  Vision,"  also  dating  from 
this  time ;  but  a  perusal  of  the  "  Contes  de  La  Fontaine,"  a 
book  which  no  discipline  seems  able  to  keep  out  of  French 
colleges,  plainly  suggested  "Le  Diable  ermite,"  in  which  the 
good  Abb^s  erotic  style  was  imitated  only  too  successfully. 
Another  piece,  entitled  "  Religion,"  shows  that  the  young 
versifier,  the  former  winner  of  prizes  for  "  religious  instruc- 
tion," was  already  losing  his  faith  under  the  influence,  no 
doubt,  of  Parisian  surroundings.  In  this  effort  he  is  found 

1  It  seems  probable  that  lie  had  already  spent  Ms  Easter  holidays  there  that 
year ;  for  some  of  his  verses,  "Ce  <p.e  je  veux,"  are  dated  Aix,  May,  1859. 
See  Alexis,  L  c.,  p.  297. 


52       1JSMTLE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   KEFOBMER 

calling  on  the  Deity  to  manifest  himself  in  order  that 
he  may  believe  in  him,  asking  the  why  and  the  wherefore 
of  things,  and  displaying  a  grim  consciousness  of  the 
wretchedness  of  mankind.  There  are  lines  in  this  poem 
of  his  twentieth  year  which  suggest  the  Zola  of  the  last 
stage: 

"  Helas  !  que  tout  est  noir  dans  la  valise  humaine  ! 
Les  homines  en  troupeaux  se  parquent  dans  la  plaine, 
Vivant  BUT  des  £gouts,  qu*entoure  un  mur  croulant." 

As  his  vacation  drew  to  a  close,  Zola  once  more  bestirred 
himself,  and,  after  consultation  with  his  friends,  decided  to 
make  another  attempt  to  secure  the  diploma  which  would 
prove  an  "  open  sesame "  to  regular  employment.  But  he 
did  not  care  to  face  the  Paris  examiners  again ;  he  preferred 
to  try  those  of  Marseilles,  thinking,  perhaps,  that  they 
might  prove  more  indulgent.  So,  taking  up  his  books  to 
refresh  Ms  memory,  he  lingered  in  Provence  till  November. 
At  Marseilles,  however,  even  his  comparative  success  in 
Paris  was  denied  him.  He  failed  with  his  preliminary 
papers  and  was  not  even  summoned  for  the  vivfi-voce  ex- 
amination. That  defeat  was  decisive.  When  he  returned 
to  Paris  he  found  his  mother  cast  down  by  it ;  the  friends 
who  helped  her  had  lost  all  faith  in  his  ability.  It  was 
useless  for  him  to  return  to  the  Lyce*e.  In  another  four 
months  he  would  be  twenty  years  of  age ;  he  must  no  longer 
remain  a  burden  on  others,  it  was  time  for  him  to  earn  his 
own  living.  But  how  was  he  to  do  so  ?  The  outlook  was 
gloomy  indeed. 


Ill 

BOHEMIA  —  DRUDGEBY  —  FIRST   BOOKS 

1860-1866 

A  clerkship  at  the  Docks  Napoleon  —  Peregrinations  through,  the  Quartier 
Latin  —  Zola  joined  there  by  Ce"zanne  —  He  lives  in  a  glass  cage  — 
"L'Amoureuse  Come"die"  — Poetry  and  poverty  —  ''Genesis"  — 
Spring  rambles  —  The  Quartier  Latin  in  1860  —  Love  in  a  garret  —  "La 
Confession  de  Claude,"  and  the  den  in  the  Hue  Soufflot  —  The  fairy  of 
one's  twentieth  year — Terrible  straits —  "  Playing  the  Arab  "  —  "  Good 
for  nothing  "  —  Help  from  Dr.  Boudet  —  Zola  is  engaged  by  M.  Hachette 
and  emerges  from  Bohemia  —  Hachette' s  authors  and  Zola — Fresh  Pere- 
grinations —  Short  stories  —  Zola's  *  *  band  "  —  His  correspondence  with 
Antony  Valabregue  —  "  Contes  &  Ninon  "  —  Zola  weaned  from  idyl  and 
fable  —  *'  Madame  Bovary  "  —  Duality  of  Zola's  nature  —  His  improved 
circumstances — Newspaper  articles  —  The  lesson,  of  "  Henriette  Mare- 
chal  "  —  **  La  Confession  de  Claude  "  published  —  Zola's  opinion  of  it  — 
Barbey  d'AureVilly's  attack  and  a  threatened  prosecution  —  Zola  quits 
Hachette's,  and  refuses  to  pander  to  fools. 

AFTER  choosing  a  scientific  career,  and  then  aspiring  to 
poetic  fame  as  great  as  that  of  Hugo  or  Musset,  to  sink  even 
momentarily  to  a  junior  clerkship,  worth  sixty  francs  a 
month,1  at  the  "  Docks  "  in  the  Rue  de  la  Douane,  was  hard 
indeed.  Yet  such  became  Zola's  fate.  Some  who  have 
written  of  the  episode  have  fallen  into  various  errors.  An 
American  account  says  that  the  young  man  "became  a  dock 
labourer;  an  English  biographer  has  referred  to  his  place 
of  employment  as  a  business  house.  But  on  consulting  any 
plan  of  Paris  as  it  was  in  1860  or  thereabouts,  it  will  be 
seen  that  a  great  entrepot,  with  offices  for  the  collection  of 
the  state  customs  and  the  municipal  dues,  then  adjoined  the 

1  £2  8s.  ;  or  about  $12. 


54     £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

"  Docks  Napoleon,"  where  goods,  coining  into  Paris  by  the 
St.  Martin  Canal,  were  landed.  The  establishment  of  this 
entrepot  and  its  adjuncts  was  carried  out  between  1833  and 
1840  ;  1  the  adjoining  Eue  de  la  Douane  took  its  name  from 
the  enterprise  ;  and  it  was  there,  then,  that  Zola,  after  fail- 
ing at  his  examinations,  secured  employment  as  a  clerk,  the 
situation  being  found  for  him  by  his  father's  friend,  Maltre 
Labot,  the  advocate. 

But  the  salary  was  the  barest  pittance.  How  could  a 
young  man  of  twenty  live,  in  Paris,  on  two  francs  a  day  ? 
Moreover,  there  was  no  prospect  whatever  of  any  "rise." 
At  the  expiration,  therefore,  of  two  months,  —  after  trudging 
a  couple  of  miles  twice  a  day  between  the  "Docks"  and 
the  Quartier  Latin,  passing  on  the  road  the  great  Central 
Markets,  whose  wondrous  life  he  now  began  to  observe,  — 
Zola  threw  up  this  employment;  and  from  the  beginning 
of  March,  1860,  till  the  end  of  that  year,  then  all  through 
1861,  and  the  first  three  months  of  1862,  he  led  a  life  of 
dire  Bohemian  poverty.  On  arriving  in  Paris  in  February, 
1858,  he  had  lived  with  his  mother  at  63,  Eue  Monsieur-le- 
Prince.  Thence,  in  January,  1859,  they  had  moved  to  241, 
Eue  St.  Jacques,  a  narrow  and  ancient  thoroughfare,  long  one 
of  the  main  arteries  of  Paris,  intimately  associated,  too,  with 
the  student  history  of  the  original  Quartier  Latin.  But  in 
April,  1860,  at  the  time  when  Zola  quitted  the  "  Docks,"  he 
and  his  mother  found  a  cheaper  lodging  at  35,  Eue  St.  Victor, 
another  old  street,  on  the  slope  of  the  "Montagne  Ste. 
Genev&ve,"  towards  the  Halle  aux  Vins  and  the  Jardin  des 
Plantes. 


Lock's  "  Dictionnaire  topograpMque  et  historiqae  de  1'ancien 
Paris,"  Paiis,  n.  d.  "but  cir.  1856. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE     55 

Here  Zola's  room  was  one  of  a  few  lightly  built  garrets, 
raised  over  the  house-roof  proper,  and  constituting  a  seventh 
"floor";  the  leads  in  front  forming  a  terrace  whence  the 
view  embraced  nearly  all  Paris.  While  Zola  was  lodging 
here,  living  very  precariously  and  trying  by  fits  and  starts 
to  secure  some  remunerative  work,  his  friend  Paul  Cezanne 
arrived  from  Aix  with  the  hope  of  making  his  way  in  the 
art  world  of  the  capital.  Cezanne  was  more  fortunately  cir- 
cumstanced than  Zola,  having  a  small  monthly  allowance  to 
depend  upon ;  and  it  was  perhaps  by  way  of  helping  his  friend 
that  he  at  first  took  up  his  residence  with  him  in  that 
seventh-floor  garret.  Zola  was  wonderfully  cheered  by  the 
companionship ;  before  long  he  again  became  as  enthusiastic 
as  Cezanne,  and  the  two  friends  dreamt  of  conquering  Paris, 
one  as  a  poet,  the  other  as  a  painter. 

When  the  summer  arrived  they  often  laid  a  paillasse  on 
the  terrace  outside  their  attic,  and  spent  the  mild  and  starry 
night  in  discussing  art  and  literature.  Moreover,  while 
Cezanne  began  to  paint,  Zola  wrote  another  poem  h  la,  Musset, 
which  he  entitled  "  Paolo  " ;  as  well  as  a  tale,  "  Le  Garnet  de 
Danse,"  which  was  subsequently  included  in  "  Les  Contes  k 
Ninon/'  But  there  was  no  improvement  in  his  position. 
Indeed,  things  went  from  bad  to  worse ;  and  in  the  autumn 
of  the  year,  as  he  had  too  much  delicacy  to  sponge  on  C£- 
zanne,  whose  allowance,  moreover,  was  only  just  sufficient 
for  himself,  they  ceased  to  live  together,  though  they  re- 
mained close  friends. 

About  the  same  time  Zola  and  his  mother  separated. 
She,  over  a  term  of  years,  had  now  and  again  secured  some 
trifling  sum  of  money  by  compromising  one  or  another  law- 
suit - —  sacrificing  a  considerable  claim  for  little  more  than  a 


56      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   EEFORMER 

morsel  of  bread.  For  the  rest,  she  was  helped  by  a  few  rela- 
tives of  her  own  and  by  some  friends  of  her  deceased  hus- 
band* In  October,  1860,  as  her  son  could  not  as  yet  provide 
for  her,  she  went  to  live  at  a  pension  in  the  Quartier  Latin, 
assisted  there,  perhaps,  by  some  friends,  or  else  obtaining 
some  employment  in  the  house,  for  she  was  skilful  with  her 
needle.  At  all  events,  her  son  found  himself  for  a  time 
quite  alone. 

He  now  went  to  reside  in  the  Rue  Neuve  St.  ^Jtienne  du 
Mont,  near  the  ancient  church  of  that  name,  and  his  lodg- 
ing, as  usual,  was  at  the  very  top  of  the  house.  This  time 
it  was  a  kind  of  belvedere  or  glass  cage  in  which  Ber- 
nardin  de  St.  Pierre,  the  author  of  "  Paul  and  Virginia,"  was 
said  to  have  sought  a  refuge  from  the  guillotine  during  the 
Eeign  of  Terror.  It  was  there,  then,  amid  all  the  breezes 
of  heaven,  and  inspired  perhaps  by  the  position  of  his  re- 
treat, that  Zola  wrote  another  poem,  called  "  L'A6rienne," 
which  he  added  to  the  pieces  entitled  "Rodolpho"  and 
"Paolo,"  the  first  written  at  Aix,  the  second  in  the  Eue 
St.  Victor.  These  three  compositions  formed,  as  it  were, 
a  trilogy  which  he  named  "  L'Amoureuse  Com^die,"  — 
"Bodolpho"  representing  the  hell,  "L'A^rienne"  the  pur- 
gatory, and  "Paolo"  the  paradise  of  love.1  This  done,  he 
sought  a  publisher,  or,  as  Paul  Alexis  puts  it,  he  imagined 
he  sought  one. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  this  slim,  pale-faced  poet,  in  his 
twenty-first  year,  with  an  incipient  beard  and  long  hair  fall- 
ing over  his  neck,  had  become  extremely  timid  in  every- 
thing that  pertained  to  ordinary  life.  He  was  not  deficient 
in  will  power,  but  misfortune — repeated  rebuffs  of  all  sorts 

1  Portions  of  the  three  poems  are  printed  by  Alexis,  I.  c. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     57 

— had  deprived  him  of  the  ordinary  confidence  of  youth  in  his 
intercourse  with  others.  His  circumstances  were  desperate 
enough.  Alexis,  when  telling  us  that  he  composed  his  poem 
"  L'A^rienne  "  in  his  glass  cage  near  the  sky,  during  the  ter- 
ribly severe  winter  of  1860-1861,  shows  him  fireless,  shiver- 
ing in  bed,  with  every  garment  he  possesses  piled  over  his 
legs,  and  his  fingers  red  with  the  cold  while  he  writes  his 
verses  with  the  stump  of  a  pencil 

How  does  he  live  ?  it  may  be  asked.  He  himself  hardly 
knows.  Everything  of  the  slightest  value  that  he  possesses 
goes  to  the  Mont-de-Pi£td ;  he  timidly  borrows  trifling  sums 
of  a  few  friends  and  acquaintances ;  he  dines  off  a  penn'orth 
of  bread  and  a  penn'orth  of  cheese,  or  a  penn'orth  of  bread 
and  a  penn'orth  of  apples ;  at  times  he  has  to  content  him- 
self with  the  bread  alone.  His  one  beverage  is  Adam's  ale  ; 
it  is  only  at  intervals  that  he  can  afford  a  pipeful  of  tobacco ; 
his  great  desire  when  he  awakes  of  a  morning  is  to  procure 
that  day,  by  hook  or  crook,  the  princely  sum  of  three  sous 
in  order  that  he  may  buy  a  candle  for  his  next  evening's 
work.  At  times  he  is  in  despair :  he  is  forced  to  commit 
his  lines  to  memory  during  the  long  winter  night,  for  lack 
of  the  candle  which  would  have  enabled  him  to  confide 
them  to  paper. 

Yet  he  is  not  discouraged.  When  "  L'A^rienne  "  is  finished, 
he  plans  another  poetic  trilogy,  which  he  intends  to  call 
"  Genesis."  He  is  still  at  a  loss  for  bread,  but  his  chief  con- 
cern is  to  beg,  borrow,  or,  if  possible,  buy  the  "books  which 
he  desires  to  study  before  beginning  his  new  poems.  At 
last  he  plunges  into  the  perusal  of  scientific  works,  consults 
Mourens  on  such  subjects  as  longevity,  instinct  and  intelli- 
gence, genius  and  madness,  dips  into  Zimmermann's  account 


58    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

of  the  origin  of  mankind  and  the  marvels  of  human  nature, 
reads  Lucretius  and  Montaigne  again,  and  prepares  a  plan  of 
Ms  intended  composition.  The  first  poem  is  to  narrate  "  The 
Birth  of  the  World "  according  to  the  views  of  modern 
science;  the  second  —  to  be  called  "Mankind"  —  is  to 
form  a  synthesis  of  universal  history ;  while  the  third,  the 
logical  outcome  of  the  previous  ones,  is  to  be  written  in  a 
prophetic  strain  showing  "  The  Man  of  the  Future "  rising 
ever  higher  and  higher,  mastering  every  force  of  nature,  and 
at  last  becoming  godlike. 

But  though  that  stupendous  composition  is  long  meditated, 
only  eight  lines  of  it  are  actually  written.  The  long  winter 
ends,  the  spring  comes,  and  Zola  turns  to  enjoy  the  sun-rays 
—  at  times  in  the  Jardin  des  Plantes,  which  is  near  his 
lodging,  at  others  along  the  quays  of  the  Seine,  where  he 
spends  hours  among  the  thousands  of  second-hand  books 
displayed  for  sale  on  the  parapets.  And  all  the  life  of  the 
river,  the  whole  picturesque  panorama  of  the  quays  as  they 
were  then,  becomes  fixed  in  his  mind,  to  supply,  many  years 
afterwards,  the  admirable  descriptive  passages  given  in  the 
fourth  chapter  of  his  novel  "  L'CEuvre."  There  it  is  Claude 
Lantier  who  is  shown  walking  the  quays  with  his  sweet- 
heart Christine.  And  Zola  was  certainly  not  alone  every 
time  that  he  himself  paced  them.  We  know  to  what  a 
young  man's  fancy  turns  in  springtime;  and  he  was  as 
human  as  others.  He  lived,  moreover,  in  the  Quartier 
Latin,  which  still  retained  some  of  its  old  freedom  of  life,  in 
spite  of  the  many  changes  it  was  undergoing. 

Baron  Haussmann  had  set  pick  and  spade  to  work  there, 
and  many  an  ancient  tenement  and  court  had  been  swept 
away  in  piercing  the  Rue  des  Ecoles  and  the  Boulevard  St. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOKMER    59 

Michel,  then  called  "  Boulevard  Sebastopol,  Eive  Gauche." 
At  that  time  the  Chaumi&re  was  dead,  the  Prado  also  had 
disappeared,  and  the  Closerie  des  Lilas  —  afterwards  known 
as  the  Bal  Bullier  —  had  lately  been  renovated,  in  fact 
transformed,  as  Privat  d'Anglemont  recorded  in  one  of  the 
last  sketches  he  wrote  prior  to  his  death  in  1859.  And 
with  the  disappearance  or  alteration  of  the  old  dancing 
places  and  tabagies,  with  the  demolition  of  many  an  ancient 
den  and  haunt,  the  inhabitants  of  the  Quartier  and  their 
manners  and  customs  were  likewise  altering.  In  fact,  there 
was  a  great  crisis  in  la  vie  de  JBoMme.  But  though  it  was 
no  longer  such  as  it  had  been  pictured  by  Murger,  such  as 
it  had  appeared  to  Theodore  de  Banville,  who,  recalling  his 
youth,  described  it  briefly  yet  forcibly  a  few  years  later,1  it 
would  be  a  mistake  to  imagine  that  it  was  altogether  dead. 
Alphonse  Daudet,  who  arrived  in  Paris  from  Ntmes  a  few 
months  before  Zola  entered  the  Lyc^e  St.  Louis,  has  shown 
that  many  of  the  old  habits  and  customs  remained.  Again, 
the  writer  of  these  pages,  who  knew  the  Quartier  Latin  well 
in  the  last  years  of  the  Second  Empire,  can  recall  that  ves- 
tiges of  its  former  life  clung  to  it  even  till  the  war  of  1870. 
There  were  still  a  few  tenth-year  students,  still  a  few  rapins, 
still  a  few  grisettes,  of  a  kind,  lingering  within  its  precincts. 
But  the  war  proved  the  final  coup  de  grace  ;  and  the  Quartier 
of  the  Third  Eepublic  with  its  chic  students,  its  gambling 
hells,  its  demi-monde,  its  filles  de  "brasserie,  its  garish  vulgar- 
ity, its  mock  propriety,  has  resembled  the  old  one  in  little 
save  its  studiousness ;  for,  however  much,  for  centuries 
past,  its  young  men  may  have  amused  themselves,  what- 

1  "  Le  Paris  Guide  par  lea  principaux  SicriYairis  de  la  France,"  Yol.  II, 
Paris,  1867. 


60     SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEK 

ever  their  eccentricities,  whatever  their  excesses,  they  have 
also  studied,  accumulated  in  that  same  Quartier  a  rich  store 
of  scholarship  and  science,  which  has  enabled  many  of  them 
to  confer  benefits  on  mankind. 

Zola,  then,  knew  the  former  Quartier  in  its  last  lingering 
hours,  when  there  were  no  longer  any  taverners  who  sold 
books  for  hard  cash  and  bought  them  back  for  a  snack  or  a 
drink,  but  when  old  clo'men  still  perambulated  the  streets, 
when  La  Californie  and  other  IMnes  still  existed  on  the 
confines,  and  when  L'Acad4mie,  the  grimy  absinthe  den, 
still  flourished  in  the  Eue  St.  Jacques  under  the  patronage 
of  litterateurs  who  never  wrote,  painters  who  never  painted, 
and  spurious  students  in  law  and  medicine  and  what  not 
besides.  Those  were  the  men  of  whom  one  said:  "When 
they  are  not  talking  they  drink,  when  they  are  not  drink- 
ing they  talk."  How  they  lived  nobody  knew,  but  one  of 
them,  a  notorious  character,  who  after  a  few  glasses  of  ab- 
sinthe would  improvise  the  most  extraordinary  comic  songs 
with  rattling  tunes,  slept  for  some  years  in  a  stable.  He 
was  turned  out  of  it  one  winter,  and  a  few  days  later  was 
found  frozen  to  death  in  the  moat  of  the  fortifications  near 
Montrouge. 

Zola,  for  his  part,  indulged  in  no  such  bibulous  dissipa- 
tion, but  he  elbowed  it  often  enough.  And  in  his  dis- 
tressful poverty,  without  guide  or  support,  it  was  fatal  that 
he  should  turn  to  such  consolation  as  might  be  offered 
him.  Thus  he  went  the  way  of  many  another  young  man 
dwelling  in  the  Quartier,  finding  at  last  a  companion  for 
his  penury,  not  the  ideal  Ninon  of  whom  he  had  dreamt 
in  Provence,  not  the  Musette  nor  the  Mimi  whom  Murger 
portrayed  with  the  help  rather  of  his  imagination  than  of 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOEMER    61 

his  memory,  but  such  a  one  as  the  Bohemia  of  the  time 
still  had  to  offer. 

A  glimpse  of  his  life  at  that  moment  is  given  in  a  few 
early  newspaper  articles,  and  particularly  in  one  of  his  first 
hooks, "  La  Confession  de  Claude,"  which  pictured  the  shame- 
less immorality  prevailing  in  certain  sets  of  the  Quartier 
Latin,  and  the  weakness  that  came  upon  even  a  well- 
meaning  young  man  when  cast  into  such  a  sphere.  At  the 
same  time  romance  is  blended  with  fact  in  the  "  Confession  " ; 
and  it  would  be  quite  a  mistake  to  regard  Claude's  mis- 
tress, Laurence,  as  a  portrait  of  the  young  woman  to  whom 
Zola  became  attached.  At  the  same  time,  the  aspirations 
of  his  nature  are  well  revealed  in  that  book,  which  beneath 
some  literary  exaggeration  remains  instinct  with  the  genuine 
disappointment  of  one  who  has  found  the  reality  of  love 
very  different  from  his  dream  of  it 

Some  passages  are  certainly  autobiographical.  The  scene 
is  a  maison  meubUe,  which  stood  near  the  Pantheon,  in  the 
Eue  Soufflot  before  that  street  was  widened  and  rebuilt. 
Zola  betook  himself  thither  on  being  expelled  from  his  glass 
cage  near  St.  Etienne  du  Mont  for  non-payment  of  rent. 
The  house  was  tenanted  by  students,  their  mistresses  and 
other  women,  and  the  life  led  there  was  so  riotous  and  dis- 
orderly that  more  than  once  the  police  came  down  on  the 
place  and  removed  some  of  the  female  tenants  to  the  prison 
of  St.  Lazare.  Here,  then,  Zola  gathered  materials  for  "  La 
Confession  de  Claude";  here  he  elbowed  his  characters 
Jacques,  Paquerette,  Laurence,  and  Marie,  while  sharing  a 
life  of  the  greatest  privation  with  the  companion  who  had 
come  to  him.  "Provence,  the  broad,  sunlit  country-side,  the 
tears,  the  laughter,  the  hopes,  the  dreams,  the  innocence 


62      MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

and  pride  of  the  past  had  all  departed ;  only  Paris  with  its 
mire,  a  garret  and  its  misery,  remained." l 

Again,  real  episodes  find  a  place  in  the  "  Confession,"  — 
memories  of  early  days ;  rambles  in  the  valley  of  the 
Bifevre,  amid  the  foetid  stench  of  that  sewer-like  stream  and 
the  acreous  odour  of  its  tanneries;  the  first  visit  to  the 
Closerie  des  Lilas,  the  disgust  inspired  there  by  the  sight  of 
all  the  harlots  with  their  paint,  their  cracked  voices,  and 
their  impudent  gestures ;  and  then  the  excursion  through 
the  waste  lands  of  Montrouge,  the  paths  and  fields  of  Ar- 
cueil  and  Bourg-la-Eeine,  to  Fontenay-aux-Roses,  Sceaux, 
and  the  Bois  de  Verri&res.  But  one  need  not  imagine  that 
this  trip  was  made  with  such  a  creature  as  the  callous, 
shameless,  helpless  Laurence ;  for,  in  recounting  the  episode 
elsewhere,  Zola  expressed  himself  as  follows : 

"  I  thought  of  my  last  excursion  to  Fontenay-aux-Roses 
with  the  loved  one,  the  good  fairy  of  my  twentieth  year. 
Springtime  was  budding  into  birth,  the  path  was  bordered 
by  large  fields  of  violets.  .  .  .  She  leant  on  my  arm,  lan- 
guishing with  love  from  the  sweet  odour  of  the  flowers.  .  .  . 
Deep  silence  fell  from  the  heavens,  and  so  faint  was  the 
sound  of  our  kisses  that  not  a  bird  in  all  the  hedges  showed 
sign  of  fear.  .  .  .  We  ascended  to  the  woods  of  Verriferes, 
and  there,  in  the  grass  under  the  soft,  fresh  foliage,  we 
discovered  some  tiny  violets.  .  .  ,  Directly  I  found  a  fresh 
one  I  carried  it  to  her.  She  bought  it  of  me,  and  the  price 
I  exacted  was  a  kiss.  .  .  .  And  now  amid  the  hubbub  of  the 
Paris  markets  I  thought  of  all  those  things,  of  all  that 
happiness.  ...  I  remembered  my  good  fairy,  now  dead  and 
gone,  and  the  little  bouquet  of  dry  violets  which  I  still 

1  "La  Confession  de  Claude,"  Nourelle  fidition,  1903,  p.  141. 


EMILE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      63 

preserve  in  a  drawer.  When  I  returned  home  I  counted 
their  withered  stems :  there  were  twenty,  and  over  my  lips 
there  passed  the  gentle  warmth  of  my  loved  one's  twenty 
kisses." l 

The  man  who  has  lived  with  a  Laurence  —  the  creature 
who  robs  youth  of  all  its  flame  and  degrades  it  to  the  mire 
— does  not  afterwards  call  her  his  good  fairy.  But  what- 
ever the  liaison,  whatever  its  origin  and  its  ending,  it  was 
certainly  marked  by  most  distressful  circumstances.  As 
the  winter  of  1861  approached,  Zola's  poverty  became  terri- 
ble. It  was  then,  as  he  afterwards  told  Guy  de  Maupas- 
sant,2 that  he  lived  for  days  together  on  a  little  bread, 
which,  in  Proven§al  fashion,  he  dipped  in  oil;  that  he 
set  himself  to  catch  sparrows  from  his  window,  roasting 
them  on  a  curtain  rod;  and  that  he  "played  the  Axab," 
remaining  indoors  for  a  week  at  a  time,  draped  in  a  cover- 
let, because  he  had  no  garments  to  wear.  Not  only  did 
he  himself  starve,  but  the  girl  who  shared  his  poverty 
starved  with  him;  and  Paul  Alexis  and  Maupassant  and 
"Claude's  Confession"  relate  how,  at  one  moment  of  des- 
peration, on  a  bitter  winter  evening,  after  an  unbroken 
fast  of  thirty-six  hours,  he  took  off  his  coat  on  the  Place 
du  Pantheon  and  bade  his  tearful  companion  carry  it  to 
the  pawnshop. 

"  It  was  freezing.  I  went  home  at  the  run,  perspiring  the 
while  with  fear  and  anguish.  Two  days  later  my  trousers 

1  See  E.  A.  Vizetelly's  Introduction  to  "The  Fat  and  the  Thin"  ("Le 
Yentrede  Paris")   London,  1896.    The  original  appeared  in  "Le  Figaro,' 
November  20,  1866  ;  and  Zola  reprinted  portions  of  it,  altered  out  of  regard 
for  his  wife,  in  "  Nouveaux  Contes  &  Ninon,"  1874. 

2  "Kerne  Bleue,"  March  10,  1883;  and  "Celehrite*s  contemporaries, '' 
Vol.  I,  Paris,  1883.  „ 


64      ^IMJLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

followed  my  coat,  and  I  was  bare.  I  wrapped  myself  in  a 
blanket,  covered  myself  as  well  as  possible,  and  took  such 
exercise  as  I  could  in  my  room,  to  prevent  my  limbs  from 
stiffening.  When  anybody  came  to  see  me  I  jumped  into 
bed,  pretending  that  I  was  indisposed." 

Very  little  money  can  have  been  lent  him  on  his  few  gar- 
ments. He  often  used  to  say  in  after-life  that  the  only  coat 
he  possessed  in  that  year  of  misery  ended  by  fading  from 
black  to  a  rusty  green.  Thus,  when  he  went  hither  and 
thither  soliciting  employment,  he  was  very  badly  received. 
"I  gathered  that  people  thought  me  too  shabby.  I  was 
told,  too,  that  my  handwriting  was  very  bad ;  briefly,  I  was 
good  for  nothing.  .  .  .  Good  for  nothing — that  was  the 
answer  to  my  endeavours ;  good  for  nothing — unless  it  were 
to  suffer,  to  sob,  to  weep  over  my  youth  and  my  heart.  .  .  . 
I  had  grown  up  dreaming  of  glory  and  fortune,  I  awoke  to 
find  myself  stranded  in  the  mire." 

But  it  is  a  long  lane  that  has  no  turning.  At  the 
close  of  1861,  an  eminent  medical  man,  Dr.  Boudet  of  the 
Academy  of  Medicine,  who  had  either  been  connected  with 
the  Lycde  St.  Louis  or  had  acted  as  one  of  the  examiners 
when  Zola  had  attempted  to  secure  a  bachelor's  degree,  gave 
the  young  man  a  letter  of  recommendation  to  M.  Louis 
Hachette,  the  founder  of  the  well-known  publishing  busi- 
ness. Zola  called  at  the  firm's  offices,  but,  for  the  time,  he 
could  only  obtain  a  promise  of  the  first  suitable  vacancy. 
Meantime,  Dr.  Boudet,  moved  by  the  sight  of  his  pitiable 
poverty,  came  to  his  help  in  an  ingenious  manner.  On  the 
occasion  of  a  new  year  the  Parisiaus  of  the  more  prosperous 
classes  invariably  exchange  visiting  cards,  and  the  doctor 
asked  Zola  to  distribute  those  which  he  intended  for  his 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOKHER      65 

friends.  At  the  same  time  the  worthy  scientist  slipped  a 
twenty-franc  piece  into  the  young  man's  hand  as  remunera- 
tion for  his  trouble.  This  discreetly  veiled  charity  at  least 
saved  Zola  from  actual  starvation  during  the  festive  season ; 
but  his  heart  remained  heavy,  and  his  feelings  were  not 
devoid  of  envy  when  he  found  that  several  of  the  doctor's 
cards  were  addressed  to  the  prosperous  parents  of  his  former 
school-fellows  at  St.  Louis. 

However,  a  month  later,  February,  1862,  he  entered  the 
"Bureau  du  Materiel"  at  Hachette's  establishment,  Ms 
salary  being  fixed  at  a  hundred  francs  a  month,  an  average 
of  2s.  8d.  per  diem;1  and  his  duties,  during  the  first  few 
weeks,  being  confined  to  packing  books  for  delivery.  A 
little  later  he  was  promoted  to  the  advertising  department, 
with  a  slightly  increased  salary.  He  was  now  at  least 
"  assured  of  daily  bread.  Naturally  painstaking  and  consci- 
entious, he  had  done  with  Bohemia  for  ever ;  he  had  begun 
life,  he  was  saved."  a 

Yet  it  was  only  by  force  of  will  that  he  accustomed  him- 
self to  a  round  of  comparative  drudgery.  If  Bohemianism 
implied  poverty,  it  meant  liberty  also ;  and,  like  many  of  us, 
Zola  found  it  hard  to  have  to  work  regularly,  at  set  tasks 
and  set  hours.  Again,  it  worried  him  that  he  had  no  oppor- 
tunity to  read  all  the  books  that  passed  through  his  hands. 
But  necessity  compelled  obedience  to  discipline,  and  he 
ended  by  discharging  his  clerkly  duties  fairly  well,  while 
allowing  full  rein  to  his  literary  bent  every  evening  and 
every  Sunday.  He  turned,  however,  from  poetry  to  prose, 
not,  it  would  seem,  because  he  doubted  his  poetical  faculty, 

1  About  sixty-four  cents,  American  currency. 

2  Alexis,  I.  c,9  p.  56. 

5 


66      $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMER 

but  because  after  all  his  sufferings  he  was  impatient  for 
success.  Until  that  success  should  arrive  he  felt,  rightly 
enough,  that  for  ten  publishers  who  might  be  willing  to  buy 
a  volume  of  his  prose  he  would  not  find  one  inclined  to  risk 
money  on  a  volume  of  his  verse.  Everything  tends  to 
show,  indeed,  that  the  dreamer  of  the  belvedere  in  the  Eue 
St.  fitienne  du  Mont  was  awaking  to  full  consciousness  of 
the  stern  and  often  unjust  laws  of  the  modern  world,  that, 
enlightened,  instructed  by  his  sojourn  in  Bohemia,  he  was 
ripening  into  a  practical  man. 

In  the  advertising  department  of  Messrs.  Hachette's  busi- 
ness the  young  clerk  became  acquainted  with  some  of  the 
authors  whose  works  were  published  by  the  firm.  He  only 
occasionally  caught  sight  of  such  celebrities  as  Guizot,  Lamar- 
tine,  Michelet,  Littr£,  and  Duruy,  the  Minister  of  Public 
Instruction ;  but  other  writers  dropped  in  to  inquire  what  ar- 
rangements were  being  made  for  launching  some  forthcoming 
work,  or  how  the  sales  of  a  recent  book  were  progressing,  for 
that  also  was  a  matter  with  which  Zola  had  to  deal.  Among 
the  men  with  whom  he  thus  had  some  intercourse  were  mis- 
cellaneous writers  like  Francis  Wey,  travellers  like  Ferdinand 
de  Lanoye,  popular  novelists  like  Amddfe  Achard,  a  dozen 
of  whose  fifty  romances  —  largely  of  Dumas'  semi-historical 
pattern  — were  published  by  Hachette.  Then  there  was 
the  scholarly  Pr&vost-Paradol,  to  whom  Zola  was  attracted, 
for  he  had  been  professor  of  French  literature  at  the 
faculty  of  Aix  before  embracing  journalism  and  becoming 
a  leading  exponent  of  Orleanist  doctrines,  —  liberal,  though 
scarcely  democratic,  views.  His  chief  work,  "La  France 
Nouvelle,"  a  classic  for  all  who  would  study  the  condi- 
tion of  French  society  in  the  middle  period  of  the  nine- 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    67 

teenth  century,  was  not  yet  written ;  but  Hachette  already 
issued  his  "Etudes  sur  les  Moralistes  Fran§ais"  and  his 
"  Essai  sur  I'Histoire  Universelle." 

Another  visitor,  one  who  called  as  a  reviewer  of  the  pro- 
vincial press,  not  as  an  author,  for  he  published  his  books 
elsewhere,  was  Duranty,  a  young  novelist  with  an  original, 
strongly  marked  personal  talent,  whose  first  book,  "  Le  Mai- 
heur  d'Henriette  G&ard,"  had  proved  fairly  successful,  but 
who,  in  the  end,  failed  to  secure  public  recognition,  though 
Zola  became  quite  an  admirer  of  his  work — in  a  measure, 
perhaps,  because  it  departed  from  most  of  the  recognised 
canons  and  showed  Duranty  to  be  a  man  who,  appreciated 
or  not,  followed  his  own  bent  and  disdained  to  copy  others. 

But  one  of  Hachette's  leading  authors  at  that  time  was 
Edmond  About,  the  "  nephew  of  Voltaire/'  who  a  few  months 
before  Zola  was  engaged  by  the  firm  had  given  it  his  vivid 
"Lettres  d'un  bon  jeune  homme,"  written  aupas  de  charge, 
to  the  music,  as  it  were,  of  a  flourish  of  trumpets.  Then,  in 
1862,  in  Zola's  time,  Hachette  published  About's  fanciful 
"  Gas  de  M.  Gudrin,"  and  in  the  following  year  his  novel 
"Madelon,"  which  would  be  perhaps  his  best  book  had  he 
not  insisted  unduly  on  its  setting,  with  the  result  that  it 
now  seems  somewhat  old-fashioned.  "  Madelon,"  however, 
is  to  About  what  "  La  Dame  aux  Camillas  "  is  to  Dumas  JHst 
"La  Fille  Elisa"  to  the  Goncourts,  "  Sapho  "  to  Daudet,  and 
"Nana"  to  Zola.  The  young  clerk  read  this  book  with 
keen  and  appreciative  interest. 

But  of  all  the  authors  calling  at  his  office,  the  one  who 
most  frequently  lingered  there  to  chat  for  a  few  minutes 
was  the  great  critic  Taine.  He  was  then  writing  his  "  His- 
toire  de  la  Literature  Anglaise  "  (1863-1864),  and,  on  ac- 


68      ^MELE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AJSTD  REFORMER 

count,  perhaps,  of  Ixis  contributions  to  the  Prench  reviews 
or  of  his  "Philosophes  classiques  du  XIXe  S&cle"  he 
occasionally  found  letters  awaiting  him  at  Hachette's. 
These  were  handed  him  by  Zola,  in  whose  presence  he 
opened  them.  At  times  they  were  simply  abusive,  at  others 
they  warned  him  to  be  careful  of  his  soul,  and  in  either  case 
they  were  anonymous.  But  Taine  on  receiving  any  such 
missive  merely  laughed  and  shrugged  his  shoulders.  "It 
is  of  no  account,"  he  would  say,  "  it  only  comes  from  some 
poor  benighted  country  priest.  I  am  anathema  to  the 
village  cures" 

Zola  received  no  help  or  encouragement  from  the  authors 
he  met  at  Hachette's,  but  this  is  not  surprising;  in  the 
first  years,  at  all  events,  they  knew  nothing  of  his  literary 
proclivities,  and  he  was  too  timid  to  reveal  them.  He  had 
now  moved  from  the  den  in  the  Rue  Soufflot  to  an  old  house, 
a  former  convent,  in  the  Impasse  St.  Dominique,  near  the 
Eue  Royer  Collard,  where  he  occupied  a  monastic  room, 
overlooking  a  large  garden.  Thence  he  betook  himself  to 
the  Rue  Neuve  de  la  Pdpinifere,  between  the  fortifications 
and  the  Montparnasse  cemetery,  over  which  the  view  from 
his  window  extended.  But  his  peregrinations  were  inces- 
sant, and  at  the  beginning  of  the  winter  of  1863  he  moved 
again,  this  time  to  7,  Rue  des  Feuillantines,  a  turning  out 
of  the  Rue  St.  Jacques.  Nearly  all  his  spare  time  was  given 
to  writing.  Thinking  of  the  Bohemianism  from  which  he 
had  lately  emerged,  he  began  his  novel  "  La  Confession  de 
Claude  " ;  then  put  it  by  for  a  time,  and  devoted  himself  to 
short  stories.  His  "Fde  Amoureuse"1  had  been  printed 
in  an  Aix  newspaper,  "La  Provence";  and  he  now  (1863) 

1  See  ante,  p.  49. 


fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       69 

secured  the  insertion  of  a  story  called  "  Simplice,"  and 
another,  "Le  Sang,"  in  the  "  Revue  du  Mois,"  issued  at 
Lille.  Others  followed:  "Les  Voleurs  et  1'Ane,"  reminis- 
cent of  Bohemia ;  "  Soeur  des  Pauvres,"  written  in  full  view 
of  the  Montparnasse  cemetery ;  and  "  Celle  qui  m'aime,"  in 
which,  after  f eerie,  parable,  and  pure  romance,  a  touch  of 
realism  first  appeared  in  Zola's  work.  He  sent  this  last 
tale  to  Henri  de  Villemessant  for  the  latter's  then  weekly 
journal, "  Le  Figaro,"  but  the  manuscript  came  back  "  declined 
with  thanks." 

Another  attempt  to  secure  the  honours  of  print,  this  time 
with  his  poetic  trilogy,  "L'Amoureuse  Corn^die,"  proved 
equally  unsuccessful.  One  Saturday  evening,  says  Alexis, 
he  timidly  deposited  the  manuscript  on  M.  Hachette's  table, 
and  on  the  Monday  morning  his  employer  sent  for  him.  He 
had  glanced  at  the  poems,  and  though  he  was  not  disposed 
to  publish  them,  he  spoke  to  the  young  author  in  a  kindly 
and  encouraging  manner,  raised  his  salary  to  two  hundred 
francs  a  month,  and  even  offered  him  some  supplementary 
work.  For  instance,  he  commissioned  him  to  write  a  tale 
for  one  of  Ms  periodicals,  one  intended  for  children,  and  it 
was  then  that  Zola  penned  his  touching  "  Soeur  des  Pauvres  " ; 
but  M.  Hachette  deemed  it  too  revolutionary  in  spirit,  and 
did  not  use  it. 

Zola's  circumstances  having  now  improved,  he  again 
sought  a  new  home,  and  finding  commodious  quarters  at 
278,  Rue  St.  Jacques,  near  the  military  hospital  of  the  Val 
de  (Mce,  he  took  his  mother  to  live  with  him.  Her  father, 
the  aged  M.  Aubert,  who,  it  seems  probable,  had  retained 
or  recovered  some  slender  means  in  the  course  of  the  canal 
lawsuits,  had  died  in  1862;  but  around  the  mother  and 


70      $MHJE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

her  son  were  now  gathered  the  latter's  early  friends,  who, 
like  Mm,  had  come  from  Aix  to  Paris.  Paul  C&zanne, 
Jean-Baptiste  Bailie,  Marius  Roux,  and  Solari,  with  Zola 
himself,  formed  a  small,  enthusiastic,  ambitious  band,  such 
as  was  afterwards  described  so  faithfully  in  "L'CEuvre." 
From  time  to  time  also,  Antony  Valabrkgue,  the  future 
poet  and  critic,  visited  the  capital,  and  on  returning  to 
Aix  corresponded  with  Zola,  whose  letters1  were  very 
interesting. 

One  gleans  from  them  that  in  1864  Zola  submitted  some 
of  his  poetical  pieces  to  L'Acaddmie  des  Jeux  Floraux  of 
Toulouse,  which  *  crowned  "  none  of  them ;  that  he  attended 
the  evening  literary  lectures  at  the  Salle  des  Conferences 
in  the  Rue  de  la  Paix,  and  "  reported,"  for  some  paper  which 
is  not  specified,  the  accounts  given  of  Chopin,  "  Gil  Bias," 
Shakespeare,  Aristophanes,  La  Bruy&re's  "  Caractkres,"  Miche- 
let's  "37 Amour"  and  the  philosophy  of  Moli&re.2  In  April 
that  year  he  had  as  yet  done  nothing  with  the  various  short 
stories  to  which  reference  has  been  made ;  and  he  thought 
of  leaving  them  in  abeyance  while  he  completed  the  novel, 
"La  Confession  de  Claude,"  which  he  had  begun  in  1862. 
Three  months  later,  however,  the  stories  were  sold,  and 
Zola  wrote  to  Valabr&gue :  "  The  battle  has  been  short,  and 
I  am  astonished  that  I  have  not  suffered  more.  I  am  now 
on  the  threshold :  the  plain  is  vast  and  I  may  yet  break 


*  "La  Grande  Berne,"  Paris,  1893,  Vol.  XXVI,  pp.  1-19,  241-262. 

2  These  lectures  were  given  first  in  the  Rue  de  la  Paix,  later  in  the  Rue 
Cadet,  and  later  still  in  the  Rue  Scribe.  They  were  most  interesting  and  in- 
structive. The  present  writer  often  attended  them  in  the  last  years  of  the 
Empire  to  hear  Deschanel  the  elder,  J.  J.  Weiss,  Eugene  Pelletan,  Labou- 
laye,  Legouve*,  St.  Marc-Girardin,  Henri  Martin,  Sarcey,  Wolowski,  and 
others. 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER      71 

my  neck  in  crossing  It ;  but  no  matter,  as  it  only  remains 
for  me  to  march  onward  I  will  march." 

Besides  the  tales  already  enumerated,  Zola's  first  volume, 
which  opened  with  a  glowing  dedication  to  Ninon,  the  ideal 
love  of  his  youth,  —  some  passages  being  inspired,  however, 
by  the  riper  knowledge  that  had  come  to  him  from  the  more 
material  love  of  Bohemian  days, — included  "  Les  Aventures 
du  Grand  Sidoine  et  du  Petit  M^ddric,"  an  entertaining  fable 
of  a  giant  and  his  tiny  brother.  Zola  had  sent  his  manu- 
script to  M.  Hetzel,  then  associated  in  business  with  M. 
Albert  Lacroix,  a  scholarly  man  of  letters  who,  a  little  later, 
founded  the  well-known  Librairie  Internationale  and  pub- 
lished several  of  the  works  of  Victor  Hugo:  in  return  for 
which  the  great  poet,  whose  own  books  were  profitable, 
virtually  compelled  M.  Lacroix  to  issue  the  works  of  his 
sons  and  his  hangers-on,  with  the  result  that  heavy  losses 
frequently  occurred. 

Hetzel  and  Lacroix  agreed  to  publish  Zola's  tales  (under 
the  collective  title .  of  "  Contes  k  Ninon  ")  without  exacting 
anything  for  the  cost  of  production;  but  the  author  was 
to  receive  no  immediate  payment  He,  all  eagerness  to 
see  his  work  in  book-form,  subscribed  to  every  condition 
that  was  enunciated,  and  then  ran  home  to  tell  his  mother 
the  good  news.  The  volume  was  issued  on  October  24, 
1864,1  which  became  a  red  letter  day  in  Zola's  life.  Writing 
to  Valabrfegue  in  the  following  January,  he  told  him  that 
more  than  half  of  the  first  edition  (probably  one  of  fifteen 
hundred  copies)  was  then  sold;  and  as  the  book  at  least 
made  him  known,  procured  him  journalistic  and  literary 

1  No  date  appears  on  the  title  of  the  first  edition  (18mo,  3  francs),  which 
bears  the  imprints  of  Hetzel  and  Lacroix,  and  Poupart-Davyl  &  Co.,  Printers. 


72    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

wort,  lie  felt  greatly  inspirited,  though  lie  still  remained 
at  Hachette's,  intending,  lie  said,  to  keep  Ms  post  for  sev- 
eral years  if  possible,  in  order  to  increase  "the  circle  of 
his  relations."  Meantime,  as  it  was  necessary  he  should 
"make  haste,  and  rhyming  might  delay  him,"  he  left  the 
Muse  for  ulterior  wooing,  —  that  is,  if  she  should  not 
then  have  grown  angry,  or  have  eloped  with  some  more  naif 
and  tender  lover  than  himself.  Briefly,  as  he  was  writing 
prose  to  his  personal  advantage,  he  intended  to  persevere 

with  it 

It  may  he  said  of  Zola's  first  volume  that  it  was  gracefully, 
prettily  written ;  that  more  than  one  of  the  tales  contained 
in  it  was  a  poem  in  prose.  Brimful  of  the  author's  early 
life  in  Provence,  his  youthful  fancies  and  aspirations,  those 
"  Contes  k  Ninon  "  gave  no  warning  of  what  was  to  follow 
from  his  pen.  And  yet  at  the  very  time  of  writing  most 
of  them  he  was  being  weaned  from  romance  and  fable  and 
idyl  Not  only  had  he  taken  considerable  interest  in 
About's  * Madelon"  but  he  had  been  studying  Balzac,  and 
particularly  Flaubert's  « Madame  Bovary,"  the  perusal  of 
which  had  quite  stirred  him.  A  man  had  come,  axe  in 
hand,  into  the  huge  and  often  tangled  forest  which  Balzac 
had  left  behind  him ;  and  the  formula  of  the  modem  novel 
now  appeared  in  a  blaze  of  light  When  "  Madame  Bovary  " 
was  issued  in  1860,  the  average  Parisian,  the  average  literary- 
man  even,  regarded  it  merely  as  a  snccls  de  scandale.  Many 
of  those  who  praised  the  book  failed  to  understand  its  real 
import;  and  when  Flaubert  was  satirised  in  the  popular 
theatrical  rfoue,  "Qh6l  les  petite  Agneaux,"  half  Paris,  by 
way  of  deriding  him,  hummed  the  trivial  lines  sung  by  the 
actress  who  impersonated  "Madame  Bovary": 


0 

a 
<u 

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(X 

£ 


"U 

s 

0 

ffi 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE      73 

Qu'importe !  c'est  bfficlel, 
On  vit  quatre  e*diteurs  me  suivre : 
Oui,  Paul,  MatMeu,  Pierre,  et  Michel 
Voulurent  imprimer  mon  livre  I  .  .  , 
Craignant  mes  excentricite*s 
Mathieu  ne  vit  pas  mon  me'rite ; 
Paul  ne  vit  pas  mes  quality's, 
Pierre  ne  vit  pas  mes  beaute*s, 

Mais  Michel  les  vit 

Mais  Michel  les  vit  x 
Tout  de  suite  !  " 

Zola,  however,  did  not  laugh  or  jeer  at "  Madame  Bovary* " ; 
he  felt  that  a  literary  evolution  might  be  at  hand,  as  is 
shown  by  his  subsequent  correspondence  with  Valabr&gua 
The  struggle  which  was  to  last  all  his  life,  one  between  his 
reason  and  his  imagination,  was  beginning,  if  indeed  it  had 
not  begun  previously ;  for  the  oscillation  which  one  observes 
in  his  writings  between  romanticism  and  realism  —  or 
naturalism  as  the  latter  became  in  its  advanced  stage  — 
would  indeed  seem  to  be  only  a  continuation  of  what  had 
happened  in  his  school  days,  when,  in  spite  of  proficiency 
in  literary  subjects,  he  had  elected  to  follow  a  scientific 
course  of  study,  in  the  midst  of  which,  however,  his  literary 
bent  had  still  and  ever  asserted  itself.  Novalis  has  said : 
"  Every  person  who  consists  of  more  than  one  person  is  a 
person  of  the  second  power  —  or  a  genius,"  If  that  be  true, 
then  Zola  was  certainly  a  genius;  for  there  were  always 
two  men  in  him.  And,  in  any  case,  those  who  desire  to 
understand  him  aright  should  never  lose  sight  of  the  duality 
of  his  nature. 

But  at  the  stage  of  his  career  which  one  has  now  reached, 

1  A  pun  on  the  name  of  the  publisher,  Michel  Le*vy.  It  must  he  admitted 
that  while  the  authors  of  "  One  !  les  petits  Agneaux  "  scoffed  at  Flaubert,  they 
gave  him  a  splendid  advertisement. 


74      •ftMTLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

the  realist,  the  naturalist,  had  not  fully  arisen.  We  find 
him  appearing  in  Zola's  next  book,  "La  Confession  de 
Claude,'*  and  in  sundry  newspaper  articles,  which,  like  the 
'*  Confession,"  were  issued  in  1865.  After  working  ten  hours 
a  day  at  Hachette's,  the  young  man,  on  returning  to  his 
home — which  in  the  year  mentioned  was  first  at  142, 
Boulevard  Montparnasse,  near  a  shooting  gallery  which 
prevented  him  from  working,  and  a  little  later  at  10,  Rue  de 
Vaugirard,  where  he  had  a  balcony  overlooking  the  Luxem- 
bourg gardens  —  at  once  turned  to  the  "  Confession/'  or  else 
to  the  press-work  he  had  secured.  Every  week  he  wrote  an 
article  of  from  one  hundred  to  one  hundred  and  fifty  lines 
for  the  "  Petit  Journal,"  and  often  another,  running  from  five 
to  six  hundred  lines  for  the  "  Salut  Public,"  then  the  chief 
organ  of  the  Lyons  press.  The  former  newspaper  paid  Mm 
twenty  francs  for  each  article ;  the  latter,  from  fifty  to  sixty 
francs.  Thus  he  now  made  an  average  of  two  hundred 
francs  a  month  by  his  pen.1  It  was  also  at  this  period  that 
he  contributed  a  few  short  tales,  notably  "La  Vierge  au 
Cirage,"  to  that  somewhat  demi-mondain  periodical  "La 
Vie  Parisienne,"  and  that  he  wrote  a  one-act  comedy,  "  La 
Laide,"  which  he  sent  to  the  Oddon  Theatre,  whose  manager 
declined  to  stage  it. 

But  the  articles  in  the  "  Salut  Public  "  attracted  attention, 
and  Zola  afterwards  reprinted  some  of  them  in  a  volume 
called  "  Mes  Haines."  The  germ  of  the  Zola  of  later  times 
will  be  found  in  several  of  those  early  papers.  The  one 
on  Taine  is  perhaps  the  best ;  and,  when  one  remembers  that 
it  was  written  by  a  young  man  in  his  twenty-fifth  year,  the 
real  understanding  and  critical  insight  which  it  discloses 

1  Zola  to  Valafcr&gue,  February  6,  1865. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      75 

appear  all  the  more  creditable.  Another  notable  article  was 
a  bold,  disdainful  review  of  Napoleon  Ill's  "Histoire  de 
Jules  Ctesar,"  containing,  in  the  usual  veiled  language  of  the 
times,  the  first  indication  that  Zola  held  Republican  opin- 
ions. Again,  two  articles  on  "  Le  Supplice  d'une  Femme " 
and  the  Dumas-Girardin  scandal  connected  with  that  trag- 
edy are  in  their  way  interesting,  while  another  on  the 
"  Germinie  Lacerteux  "  of  Edmond  and  Jules  de  Goncourt  is 
particularly  noteworthy  as  showing  the  progress  of  Zola's 
evolution  towards  naturalism  in  literature. 

This  article  was  favourable  to  the  book,  whose  authors  it 
pleased;  and  some  communications  having  been  exchanged, 
the  young  journalist  secured  a  seat  for  that  famous  first 
performance  of  "  Henriette  Marshal,"  which  ranks  as  one 
of  the  mos.t  uproarious  nights  in  the  history  of  the  Com^die 
Fran§aise.  [The  audience,  Zola  tells  us,1  began  to  hiss 
before  the  curtain  rose ;  the  storm  burst  forth  at  the  first 
words  spoken  by  the  actors.  The  opening  scene,  laid  at 
the  opera-house  on  the  night  of  a  masked  ball,  scandalised 
the  old  habitues  of  the  Com^die.  Modern  masqueraders  and 
slang  in  the  home  of  Racine  and  Corneille !  What  sacri- 
lege !  But  the  greatest  opposition  to  the  piece  came  from 
the  young  Republicans  of  the  time,  who  were  not  influenced 
by  the  merits  or  faults  of  the  play,  but  simply  by  the  fact 
that  its  performance  at  the  Comddie  was  due  to  the  influ- 
ence of  the  Emperor's  cousin,  the  Princess  Mathilde. 

Yet  whatever  might  be  the  public  dislike  of  that  mem- 
ber of  the  reigning  house,  to  whom  a  horrid  nickname 
was  currently  given,  whatever  the  notoriety  of  her  liaison 
with  the  Count  de  Nieuwerkerke,  the  "  Superintendent  of 

1  "  Les  Romanciers  Naturalistes,"  Paria,  1881,  p.  238. 


76       6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Fine  Arts,"  it  was  somewhat  hard  for  the  Goncourts  that 
their  play  should  be  rendered  responsible  for  her  lapses. 
But  good  came  out  of  evil,  as  the  saying  goes ;  if  "  Henriette 
Marshal"  was  hissed  off  the  stage,  the  fracas  made  the 
Goncourts  famous.  Two  nights  of  uproar  contributed  more 
to  popularise  their  name  and  to  win  readers  for  their  works 
than  years  of  zealous  toil.  They  had  long  been  esteemed  in 
literary  circles,  but  hitherto  they  had  remained  unknown  to 
the  great  public.  Their  novels,  like  their  historical  works, 
had  secured  no  large  sales,  whereas  now  all  was  altered,  and 
the  change,  and  the  circumstances  which  wrought  it,  pro- 
duced a  deep  impression  on  Emile  Zola,  confirmed  him  in 
the  view  which  he  had  already  begun  to  entertain,  that  fame 
in  the  modern  literary  world  depended  largely  on  a  resound- 
ing coup-de-pistolet. 

He  was  fairly  well  pleased  with  the  result  of  his  volume 
of  "  Contes,"  but  prior  to  the  "  Henriette  Marshal "  scandal l 
he  had  already  declared  that  he  would  greatly  have  preferred 
a  severe  "  slating "  to  some  of  the  milk-and-water  praise  of 
his  reviewers.  As  he  wrote  to  Valabr&gue,  however,  he 
lived  in  the  hope  that  his  next  book,  "La  Confession  de 
Claude,"  would  almost  "  decide  his  reputation."  It  was  pub- 
lished by  Lacroix,  on  November  25, 1865,2  at  the  Librairie 
Internationale,  which  he  had  now  established  in  conjunction 
with  a  Flemish  confrere,  Verboeckhoven ;  and  this  time  the 
arrangement  with  Zola  was  that  the  latter  should  receive  a 

1  The  first  performance  took  place  on  December  5,  1865, 

2  Though  "  1866  "  appears  on  the  title-page,  the  above  is  the  exact  date  of 
publication  and  registration  at  the  Ministry  of  the  Interior.    Alexis  is  there- 
fore in  error  when  he  says  the  book  appeared  in  October.    The  question  of 
date  has  some  importance  in  connection  with  Zola's  departure  from  Hachette's 
and  the  cause  thereof. 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      77 

royalty  of  ten  per  cent,  or  thirty  centimes,1  for  every 
copy  sold.  As,  however,  only  fifteen  hundred  copies  were 
printed,  the  sale  of  the  entire  edition  represented  less  than 
twenty  pounds2  for  the  author;  and  it  so  happened  that 
the  book  was  not  reissued  till  1880. 

From  this  it  might  be  inferred  that  it  proved  an  absolute 
failure;  but  such  was  hardly  the  case.  Certainly  it  was  not 
a  perfect  book.  Zola  himself  afterwards  wrote  that  the 
observer  occasionally  vanished  from  its  pages,  allowing  the 
poet  to  appear,  a  poet  who  had  drunk  too  much  milk  and 
eaten  too  much  sugar.  "It  was  not,"  said  he,  "a  virile 
work ;  it  was  the  cry  of  a  weeping,  rebellious  child"  But 
with  all  its  faults  it  bore  the  impress  of  sincerity ;  Daudet's 
"  Sapho,"  though  far  superior  as  literature,  leaves  one  cold 
when  one  turns  to  it  after  perusing  Zola's  feverish  pages. 
If  the  public  did  not  rush  to  buy  the  "Confession,"  the 
critics,  at  all  events,  paid  it  considerable  attention,  and 
several  assailed  it  unmercifully.  For  instance,  Barbey 
d'Aurdvilly,  writing  in  the  "  Nain  Jaune,"  declared  that  its 
"  hero "  was  a  toad,  and  that  the  author  had  simply  spun 
out,  over  three  hundred  and  twenty  pages,  what  Cambronne, 
who  commanded  the  Old  G-uard  at  Waterloo,  had  expressed 
in  a  single  word.  But  what  particularly  roused  Zola's  ire 
was  that  "le  Catholique  hyst&rique,"  as  he  subsequently 
nicknamed  Barbey  d'Aur^villy,  maliciously  referred  to  the 
"Confession"  as  "Hachette's  little  book,"  whereas  that  firm 
had  nothing  to  do  with  it.  Zola  therefore  addressed  a  letter 
of  protest  to  the  "  Nain  Jaune."  8 

i  About  Sd. ;  or  six  cents  (American). 
8  Say  $100. 

8  K.  H.  Sherard's  "JSinile  Zola:  A  Biographical  and  Critical  Study." 
London,  1895,  pp.  52,  53. 


78      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOEMER 

But  he  had  already  decided  to  sever  Ms  connection  with 
his  employers.  Since  the  death  of  M.  Louis  Hachette  in 
the  summer  of  1864,  the  young  man's  position  in  the  firm 
had  been  growing  difficult.  His  superiors  looked  askance  at 
his  literary  efforts,  as  if  they  thought  that  he  wrote  stories 
and  articles  in  the  time  for  which  they  paid  him.  More- 
over, as  they  themselves  did  not  deal  in  revolutionary  litera- 
ture, they  did  not  care  to  have  one  of  their  clerks  associated 
with  such  work.  "La  Confession  de  Claude'*  seemed  to 
them  too  outspoken ;  and  a  few  days  after  its  publication, 
that  is,  at  the  end  of  November,  1865,  one  of  the  partners 
said  to  Zola :  "  You  earn  two  hundred  francs  a  month  here. 
It  is  ridiculous !  You  have  plenty  of  talent,  and  would  do 
better  to  take  up  literature  altogether.  You  would  find 
glory  and  profit  in  it."1 

Zola  took  the  hint  (conveyed  pleasantly  enough)  and  gave 
notice  to  leave  at  the  end  of  the  following  January.  And 
he  was  the  better  pleased  at  having  adopted  that  course,  and 
having  averted,  perhaps,  a  direct  dismissal,  as  a  few  weeks 
after  the  appearance  of  "La  Confession  de  Claude"  the 
Procureur  Imperial,  otherwise  the  public  prosecutor,  influ- 
enced by  certain  reviews  of  the  book,  caused  some  inquiries 
to  be  made  at  Hachette's  with  respect  to  its  author.  No 
prosecution  ensued,  and  "  Madame  Bovary  "  having  escaped 
scot  free,  it  is  extremely  doubtful  if  one  would  have  suc- 
ceeded even  in  those  days  of  judicial  subserviency  to  the 
behests  of  the  authorities,  particularly  as,  whatever  might 
be  the  subject-matter  of  the  "Confession,"  it  was  instinct 
throughout  with  loathing  and  censure  of  the  incidents  it 
narrated.  In  any  case,  Zola,  on  writing  to  Valabrkgue  early 

1  demand  Xau's  '«  fimile  Zola."    12mo,  68  pages,  Paris,  1880. 


ZOLA,   NOVELIST   AND   REFORMER       79 

in  January,  1866,  with  thoughts,  perhaps,  of  "Henrietta 
Marshal "  and  the  Goncourts  in  his  mind,  was  by  no  means 
alarmed  or  cast  down.  If,  said  he,  the  "Confession"  had 
damaged  him  in  the  opinion  of  respectable  folk,  it  had  also 
made  him  known ;  he  was  feared  and  insulted,  classed  among 
the  writers  whose  works  were  read  with  horror.  For  his 
part,  he  did  not  mean  to  pander  to  the  likes  or  the  dislikes 
of  the  crowd ;  he  intended  to  force  the  public  to  caress  or 
insult  him.  Doubtless,  indifference  would  be  loftier,  more 
dignified;  but  he  belonged  to  an  impatient  age,  and  if  he 
and  his  fellows  did  not  trample  the  others  under  foot,  the 
others  would  certainly  pass  over  them,  and,  personally,  he 
did  not  f'  ~  ^ire  to  be  crushed  by  fools. 

And  now,  then,  having  published  two  volumes,  the  first 
fairly  well  received,  the  second  virulently  attacked,  he 
quitted  Hachette's,  to  give  himself  up  entirely  to  journal- 
ism and  literature. 


IV 

IN  THE  FURNACE   OF  PAEIS 
1866-1868 

Henri  de  Villemessant,  the  Bamum  of  the  Parisiaii  press  —  His  papers, 
"  L']:5ve*nement  "  and  "Le  Figaro"  —  The  first  interviews  in  French 
journalism  —  Millaud  and  Timothee  Trimm  —  Girardin's  fresh  idea  every- 
day —  Zola  inaugurates  "  Literary  Gossip  "  —  A  glance  at  French  litera- 
ture in.  1866  —  Zola,  Littre*,  and  Michelet  —  Zola's  first  impression  of 
Alphonse  Daudet  —  The  Librairie  Fouvelle  and  the  Librairie  Interna- 
tionale —  Zola  and  the  Open-Air  School  of  Art  —  Leopold  Tabar  and 
**  L'GSuvre  **  —  Zola's  articles  on  the  Salon  of  1866  —  The  great  sensa- 
tion in  the  art-  world  —  A  holiday  at  Bennecourt  —  "Le  Vceu  d'une 
Morte  "  —  "  Marbres  et  Piatres  "  —  "  La  Madeleine  "  —•  A  "  definition  of 
the  novel  "  —  Hard  times  —  Zola  in  love  —  More  writings  on  art  — 
"  Les  Mysteres  de  Marseille  "  —  "  Therese  Raquin  "  —  Arsene  Houssaye 
and  his  moral  tag  —  Ulbaah  and  "putrid  literature"  —  Ste.-Beuve's 
criticism  and  Zola's  reply  —  **Les  Mysteres  de  Marseille"  as  a  play  — 
**  La  Honte,"  otherwise  *'  Madeleine  Ferat  "  —  First  idea  of  the  Bougon 
Macquarts. 


of  the  best-known  Parisians  of  those  days  was  Henri 
de  Villemessant,  a  man  typical  of  the  period,  with  some- 
thing of  Barnum  and  Balzac's  "  Mercadet  "  in  his  composi- 
tion. He  was  the  son  of  one  of  the  first  Napoleon's  dashing 
plebeian  colonels  by  a  young  woman  of  noble  birth,  whose 
name  he  had  to  take  and  retain,  after  engaging  in  an  unsuc- 
cessful lawsuit  to  prove  the  legitimacy  of  his  birth  and 
thereby  secure  a  right  to  the  name  of  his  father.  Coming  to 
Paris  as  a  young  man,  in  the  early  days  of  Louis  Philippe's 
reign,  Villemessant  conceived  the  idea  that  a  fortune  might 
be  made  by  running  a  fashions  journal  on  new  lines  ;  and, 
under  the  patronage  of  La  Taglioni,  the  famous  ballet  dancer, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMEE     81 

Be  founded  one  called  "  La  Sylphide,"  in  which  dressmakers 
and  their  creations,  hairdressers  and  their  restorers,  corsets 
and  cosmetics,  in  fact  "  beautifiers  "  of  every  description, 
were  puffed  in  a  skilful  and  amusing  manner.  "La  Syl- 
phide "  did  not  make  Villemessant  a  millionaire,  but  the 
money  and  the  experience  he  acquired  in  conducting  it 
launched  him  into  a  very  successful  career.  In  the  days  of 
Charles  X.  there  had  been  a  newspaper  called  "  Le  Figaro," 
which  had  died  as  many  newspapers  die.  The  title  having 
lapsed,  anybody  could  appropriate  it,  and  Villemessant,  find- 
ing it  to  his  liking,  did  so.  He  started,  then,  a  weekly 
journal  called  "Le  Figaro,"  which  at  first  was  devoted 
largely  to  things  theatrical,  and  in  particular  to  the  charms, 
the  wit,  and  the  merits  of  actresses,  not  forgetting  those  of 
the  demi-monde. 

The  contents  of  "Le  Figaro,"  in  its  early  period,  were 
often  scurrilous ;  unpleasant  stories  were  current  respecting 
the  means  by  which  paragraphs  of  green-room  gossip  were 
inserted  or  suppressed ;  but  Villemessant,  paying  no  heed, 
went  his  way,  prosperous  and  rejoicing.  In  course  of  time, 
like  many  another  adventurer,  he  assumed  some  semblance 
of  respectability,  and  imparted  a  literary  touch  to  his  journal. 
But,  as  its  questionable  days  were  still  too  recent  for  many 
folk  to  take  to  it,  he  decided  to  start,  or  rather  revive  for  a 
time,  another  derelict  newspaper,  "  L'Ev^nement,"  which  he 
made  a  non-political  morning  daily. 

Villemessant  had  a  remarkable  scent  for  actualite  and 
talent  Almost  every  French  writer  popular  from  1864 
onward,  contributed  for  a  time  to  " L'fi v6nement "  or  to  "Le 
Figaro,"  which  eventually  took  the  other  journal's  place. 
Villemessant  liked  to  capture  his  contributors  young,  when 

6 


82     tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

they  were  beginning  to  show  their  mettle,  run  them  for  a 
year  or  two,  then  toss  them  aside  in  order  to  make  room  for 
other  promising  debutants.  Prom  special  circumstances  a 
few  men  remained  with  him  till  the  last,  but  the  number  of 
those  whose  connection  with  Villemessant's  journals  proved 
as  brief  as  brilliant,  was  extraordinary*  It  may  be  said  of 
him  that  if  he  did  not  originate  he  at  least  accentuated  the 
personal  note  in  French  newspaper  writing ;  and,  in  conjunc- 
tion with  his  collaborateur,  Adrien  Marx,  he  was  certainly 
the  very  first  to  introduce  the  "interview"  into  European 
journalism.1  Later  he  became  the  sponsor  of  Henri  Eoche- 
fort,  who  did  so  much  to  demolish  the  Second  Empire. 

It  was  into  the  hands  of  Villemessant  that  Zola  fell  on 
quitting  Hachette's.  He,  Zola,  had  already  had  some  deal- 
ings with  another  singular  and  prominent  newspaper  pro- 
moter, Millaud,  the  first  to  produce  a  popular  halfpenny 
daily  in  Paris,  "Le  Petit  Journal,"  in  whose  columns  L£o 
Lesp&s,  a  Parisian  hairdresser,  achieved  journalistic  celebrity 
as  "  Timoth^e  Trimm."  There  was  as  much  of  a  Barnum  in 
Millaud  as  there  was  in  Villemessant,  but  while  the  former 
was  a  thorough  Hebrew  Jew,  the  latter  was  a  Christian  one, 
who,  whenever  it  suited  his  purpose,  could  be  a  liberal  pay- 
master. And,  besides,  his  manners  were  pleasant,  even 
jovial;  his  greatest  vice  being  an  extreme  partiality  for  the 
pleasures  of  the  table,  in  which  respect  Ms  contemporaries 
contrasted  him  with  Dr.  V4ron,  another  famous  newspaper 
man  of  those  times,  saying,  "  V&ron  is  a  gourmet,  and  Ville- 
messant a  glutton." 

1  This  was  in  the  early  sixties.  Marx,  who  "interviewed"  the  boyish 
Prince  Imperial,  Baron  James  de  Rothschild,  M.  de  Lesseps,  and  many  others, 
collected  Ms  articles  in  a  volume  entitled,  "  Indiscretions  Parisiennes." 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    83 

Emile  de  Girardin,  the  father  of  the  modern  French  press, 
who  at  the  period  one  has  now  reached,  1866,  was  conduct- 
ing a  paper  called  "  La  Libertd,"  which  had  little  influence 
in  Paris,  had  made  himself  responsible,  in  Louis  Philippe's 
time,  for  a  fresh  idea  every  day  —  not,  it  must  he  said,  alto- 
gether successfully,  for  many  of  the  ideas  which  he  enun- 
ciated were  mere  paradoxes.  Villemessant,  who  owed  much 
to  Girardin,  was  an  equally  great  believer  in  novelty ;  but 
being  less  versatile,  and  suffering,  moreover,  from  a  laborious 
digestion,  which  consumed  much  of  his  time,  he  did  not 
often  have  ideas  of  his  own.  So  he  purchased  those  of 
others.  He  had  taken,  a  wife  while  he  was  yet  in  his  teens, 
and  had  two  daughters,  one  married  to  his  musical  critic, 
Jouvin,  the  other  to  a  M.  Bourdin,  who  attended  to  some  of 
his  business  matters,  such  as  advertising  and  puffery.  Bour- 
din called  upon  the  Paris  publishers,  and  at  Hachette's 
offices  he  met  Zola.  The  latter,  having  decided  to  quit  the 
firm,  told  Bourdin  of  an  idea  he  had  formed ;  it  was  com- 
municated to  Villemessant,  who  at  once  offered  to  give  Zola 
a  trial. 

The  matter  was  very  simple,  and  will  even  appear  trivial 
to  present-day  English  and  American  journalists.  Tinder 
the  title  of  "  Books  of  To-day  and  To-morrow,"  Zola  proposed 
to  contribute  a  variety  of  literary  gossip  to  "L'fiv&e- 
ment,"  after  the  style  of  the  theatrical  gossip,  already 
printed  by  that  and  other  newspapers.  Though  publishers1 
puffs  appeared  here  and  there,  nobody  had  previously 
thought  of  doing  for  books  and  writers  what  many  were 
already  doing  for  plays,  operas,  actors,  and  especially 
actresses.  The  innovation  took  Villemessant's  fancy ;  and 
Zola,  quitting  Hachette's  on  January  31, 1866,  published  his 


84    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

first  gossip  in  "  L*fi v&aement "  two  days  later.  In  one 
important  respect  Ms  articles  differed  from  the  theatrical 
gossip  of  the  time.  Much  of  the  latter  was  paid  for  by 
managers  or  performers;  whereas  Zola  neither  sought  nor 
accepted  "bribes  from  authors  or  publishers,  but  looked  to 
"  L'Ev&iement  *  for  his  entire  remuneration.  As  mentioned 
previously,  he  had  been  engaged  on  trial,  and  thus  no  actual 
scale  of  payment  had  been  arranged.  When  at  the  end  of  a 
month  he  called  upon  the  cashier  at  "  L'E v&iement "  office 
he  was  both  amazed  and  delighted  to  receive  five  hundred 
francs.1 

Villemessant,  for  his  part,  was  well  pleased  with  the  con- 
tributions. Though  the  time  was  not  one  of  exceptional 
literary  brilliancy,  it  had  its  interesting  features,  and  the 
activity  in  the  book-world  was  the  greater  as  the  first  period 
of  the  Second  Empire,  that  of  personal  rule,  had  not  yet 
quite  ended;  the  second  period,  that  of  the  so-called 
"Empire  liberal,"  dating  only  from  the  ensuing  year,  1867. 
The  Trench  still  possessed  few  liberties,  the  Government 
kept  a  strong  curb  on  the  political  newspapers  that  were 
tolerated,  and  thus  literature  at  least  had  a  chance  of  at- 
tracting that  wide  attention  of  which  politics  so  often 
despoil  it.  But  it  was  also  a  degenerate  time,  the  time  of 
Clodoche  at  the  opera-balls,  of  Offenbach's  "Orph^e"  and 
"  La  Belle  Hdl&ne."  Only  a  few  months  previously  (Novem- 
ber, 1865),  Victorien  Sardou  had  produced  his  "Famille 
Benoiton,"  one  of  the  very  best  of  his  many  theatrical 
efforts,  a  stinging  but  truthful  satire  of  some  of  the  manners 
of  the  day,  such  as  they  had  become  in  the  atmosphere  of 
the  imperial  rigimz. 

1  Alexis,  1.  c.t  p.  67. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER     85 

To  the  conditions  of  the  time  may  be  largely  attributed 
certain  features  of  its  journalism,  and  of  at  least  one  branch 
of  its  literature,  fiction.  Again  and  again  the  most  promi- 
nent articles  in  the  majority  of  the  Paris  newspapers  (only 
five  or  six  of  which  were  serious  political  organs)  dealt  with 
such  women  as  Cora  Pearl,  Giulia  Barucci,  Anna  Deslions, 
and  Esther  Guimond ;  such  men  as  Worth,  the  dressmaker, 
Markowski,  the  dancing  master,  Gramont-Caderousse,  the 
spendthrift,  and  Mangin,  the  charlatan.  The  average  boule- 
vardian  novel  beautified  vice,  set  it  amid  all  the  glamour  of 
romance.  The  adulterous  woman  was  an  angel,  the  courte- 
san quite  a  delightful  creature,  her  trade  a  mere  pecJiS 
mignm.  The  lovers,  the  seducers,  were  always  handsome, 
high-minded,  exceptionally  virile,  irresistible ;  while  the  de- 
ceived husbands  were  of  every  kind, —  odious,  tragic,  pathetic, 
dffionnair,  or  simply  ridiculous.  And  every  "  intrigue  "  was 
steeped  in  an  odour  of  musk  and  suffused  with  a  cloud  of 
poudre-de-riz. 

At  the  same  time  some  of  the  great  writers  of  the  July 
Monarchy  were  still  living.  But  if  Hugo,  the  Olympian 
veteran,  showed  little  sign  of  decay,  either  with  his  "  Chan- 
sons des  Eues  et  des  Bois,"  or  his  "  Travailleurs  de  la  Mer," 
Dumas  the  elder  was  now  at  his  last  stage,  and  George 
Sand,  bound  by  an  agreement  to  the  "R£vue  des  Deux 
Mondes,"  was  deluging  its  readers  with  the  mere  milk  and 
water  of  "  Laura "  and  similar  productions,  though  she 
treated  others  —  as  a  result,  perhaps,  of  the  vitiated  taste  of 
the  hour  —  to  such  strong  and  unsavoury  meat  as  "  Elle  et 
Lui,"  to  which  Paul  de  Musset  retorted  with  his  pungent 
relev£,  "  Lui  et  Elle."  The  recluse  of  Nohant  was  to  produce 
good  work  yet,  but  that  she  herself  should  publicly  flaunt 


86     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

tlie  least  excusable  of  her   many  amours  was  sad  and 
repulsive* 

Meantime  other  great  workers,  as  diligent  as  she,  were 
steadily  pursuing  their  lifework.  Iittr£,  whom  Zola  knew 
slightly,  for  Hachettes  were  his  publishers,  and  on  whom  he 
called  in  his  modest  second-floor  rooms  in  the  Rue  d'Assas, 
was  continuing  his  great  dictionary  of  the  Trench  language,1 
and  making  his  first  attempt  to  enter  the  Academy,  to  be 
foiled,  however,  by  the  frantic  bigotry  of  Bishop  Dupanloup, 
whereas  those  minor  lights,  Camille  Doucet  and  Provost- 
Paradol,  secured  without  difficulty  the  honours  of  election. 
Then  Littr^'s  neighbour,  Michelet,  —  another  of  Hachette's 
authors  —  whose  quiet  $oir£es  Zola,  like  other  young  literary 
men,  occasionally  attended,  was  completing  his  History  of 
Franca  And  there  was  much  activity  among  historical 
writers  generally,  and,  in  particular,  a  large  output  of  books 
throwing  light  on  phases  and  personages  of  the  great 
Revolution. 

At  that  period  also  a  little  band  of  so-called  Parnassian 
poets,  inspired,  some  by  Leconte  de  Lisle,  and  others  by 
Baudelaire,  but,  for  the  most  part,  gifted  with  little  breadth 
of  thought,  was  imparting  to  French  verse  an  extreme  lit- 
erary polish,  at  times  attaining  real  beauty  of  expression, 
and  at  others  lapsing  into  a  yrecwsitS,  which  neither  sonority 
of  sound  nor  wealth  of  imagery  could  save  from  being  ridicu- 
lous. Meanwhile,  in  dramatic  literature,  Ponsard  was  pro- 
ducing his  version  of  "  Le  Lion  Amoureux,"  and  Augier  his 
"Contagion,"  the  latter's  success  being  due,  however,  more 
to  political  reasons  than  to  any  intrinsic  merit.2  Then,  in 

1  The  first  volume  had  appeared  in  1863. 

a  Napoleon  III.  and  Ms  wife  attended  the  first  performance  at  the  Ode"on 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    87 

fiction,  if  Edmond  About  seemed  to  have  run  to  seed  prema- 
ti|.rely  with  his  interminable  novel,  "La  Vieille  Roche," 
Octave  Feuillet  was  writing  his  best  book,  "Monsieur  de 
Camors."  And  if  the  historical  novel,  as  Dumas  had  con- 
ceived it,  had  declined  to  mere  trash,  those  well-known 
literary  partners,  Erckmann-Chatrian,  by  transforming  it 
and  dealing  exclusively  with  the  period  of  the  Revolution 
and  the  First  Empire,  were  achieving  repeated  successes,  their 
popularity  being  the  greater  among  the  Parisians  on  account 
of  the  Eepublican  spirit  of  their  writings.  Then  the  foibles 
of  the  time  were  vividly  illustrated  by  Taine's  amusing 
"  Graindorge,"  and  Droz's  "  Monsieur,  Madame,  et  B4b<£,"  the 
last  as  strange  a  medley  of  immorality,  wit,  and  true  and 
honest  feeling  as  ever  issued  from  the  press.  But  there  was 
no  redeeming  feature  in  the  nonsensical  stories  of  semi- 
courtesans  to  which  the  brilliant  Arsfene  Houssaye  had 
declined ;  no  shade  of  literary  merit  in  the  wild,  unending 
romances  with  which  Ponson  du  Terrail  harrowed  the  feel- 
ings of  every  Parisian  doorkeeper  and  apprentice.  Perhaps 
the  best  serial  writer  of  the  time  was  Emile  Gaboriau,  for 
though  his  style  was  devoid  of  any  literary  quality,  he  was 
ingenious  and  plausible,  and  by  the  exercise  of  these  gifts 
raised  the  detective  novel  of  commerce  from  the  depths  in 
which  he  found  it. 

But  a  delightful  story-teller  was  coming  to  the  front 
in  the  person  of  young  Alphonse  Daudet,  who,  since  his 
arrival  in  Paris  some  nine  years  previously,  had  made  his 
way  siifficiently  well  to  secure  the  performance  of  a  one-act 

(March,  1866),  and  when  Got,  one  of  the  performers,  had  occasion  to  exclaim, 
"  England,  the  land  of  liberty ! "  nearly  the  entire  audience,  composed  of  the 
intellectual  leaders  of  Paris,  rose  and  applauded  tumultuously,  in  spite  of 
the  Emperor's  presence.  He  was  deeply  impressed  "by  this  demonstration. 


88      $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

comedy,  *  L'CEiUet  bknc,"  at  the  Com&iie  Fran§aise,  and  of 
another,  "  La  Derni&re  Hole,"  at  the  Od^on.  He  had  also 
contributed  to  "Le  Petit  Moniteur," —  a  one-sou  adjunct  of 
the  official  journal  —  in  whose  columns  he  signed  either 
'*  Baptiste  "  or  "  Jehan  de  I'lsle."  Further,  he  had  begun  his 
familiar  "  Tartarin "  under  the  title  of  "  Le  Don  Quichotte 
proven^al " ;  and  he  gave  his  charming  "  Lettres  de  mon 
Moulin"  to  "  L'lllvdnement,"  at  the  very  time  when  Zola 
was  providing  that  journal  with  literary  gossip.  The  young 
men  met  occasionally  at  the  offices  as  well  as  at  Villemes^ 
sant's  country  house  at  Seine-Port,  and  Zola  was  greatly 
struck  by  Daudet's  handsomeness,  —  "  his  abundant  mane 
of  hair,  his  silky,  pointed  beard,  his  large  eyes,  slender  nose, 
and  amorous  mouth,  the  whole  illumined  by  a  ray  of  light, 
instinct  with  a  soft  voluptuousness,  in  such  wise  that  his 
face  beamed  with  a  smile  at  once  witty  and  sensual.  Some- 
thing of  the  French  gamin  and  something  of  the  woman  of 
the  East,  were  blended  in  him." l 

But  Daudet  and  Zola,  afterwards  such  good  friends,  did 
not  become  intimate  at  this  time.  They  merely  elbowed 
one  another  on  a  few  chance  occasions,  then  followed  the 
different  roads  they  had  chosen,  roads  which  seemed  likely 
to  part  them  for  ever,  but  which  ended  by  bringing  them  as 
near  one  to  the  other  as  their  natures  allowed. 

In  those  days  one  of  the  institutions  of  literary  and 
boulevardian  Paris  was  the  Librairie  Nouvelle,  which  had 
been  founded  in  1853  or  1854,  at  the  corner  of  the  Boule- 
vard des  Italiens  and  the  Eue  de  Grammont,  by  a  M. 
Bourdilliat,  who  subsequently  sold  the  enterprise  to  Michel 
L£vy,  the  well-known  publisher.  This  Librairie  Nouvelle 

i  Zola's  "  Les  Romanciers  Naturalises,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1881  et  &?#. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      89 

was  both  a  publishing  and  a  book-selling  centre,  and  was 
much  patronised  by  literary  men,  who  made  it  a  kind  of 
lounge,  meeting  there  of  an  afternoon,  towards  the  absinthe 
hour,  and  again  at  night  when  the  theatres  closed.  You 
might  meet  there  such  men  as  the  two  Dumas,  the  Gon- 
courts,  Paul  de  Musset,  Nestor  Roqueplan,  Gautier,  About, 
Lambert-Thiboust,  Jules  Noriac,  a  brilliant  chroniqueur, 
who  never  went  to  bed  till  sunrise,  Xavier  Aubryet,  who 
combined  literature  with  business,  penning  prose  as  full  of 
sparkle  as  the  champagne  he  sold,  and  Dr.  Cerise,  a  fashion- 
able and  eccentric  medical  man,  who  shrewdly  "  physicked  " 
his  lady  patients  with  amusing  books.  Chatrian  also  came 
to  the  Librairie  Nouvelle,  with  Offenbach,  Cl&inger,  Auber, 
Hal^vy,  and  Meilhac ;  and  among  all  these  one  might  occa- 
sionally espy  amiable  diplomatists  like  the  Chevalier  Nigra 
and  the  Prince  de  Metternich,  the  husband  of  "  the  wittiest 
woman  of  the  age." 

Now,  when  M.  Albert  Lacroix,  the  publisher  of  Zola's 
"  Contes  k  Ninon  "  and  "  Confession  de  Claude,"  established 
the  Librairie  Internationale,  in  a  very  similar  position,  that 
is  at  the  corner  of  the  Boulevard  Montmartre  and  the  Rue 
Vivienne,  he  wished  to  make  it  a  literary  centre  of  the  same 
description  as  the  Librairie  Nouvelle.  And  he  largely  suc- 
ceeded in  his  endeavour,  attracting  many  patrons  of  the 
older  establishment,  and  drawing  numerous  others  around 
him.  Indeed,  the  Librairie  Internationale  became  almost  a 
revolutionary  centre ;  for  besides  issuing  many  translations 
of  foreign  works,  such  as  those  of  Grote,  Buckle,  Dean 
Merivale,  Bancroft,  Motley,  Prescott,  Gervinus,  Duncker, 
and  Herder,  it  published  many  of  the  writings  of  Hugo  and 
Michelet,  Eugene  Pelletan  and  Edgar  Quinet,  Lamartine 


90      &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMEB 

and  Laveleye,  Jules  Simon,  Ernest  Hamel,  and  Proudlion, 
—  briefly  of  men  whose  principles  were  opposed  to  those 
of  the  Second  Empire.1  Occasionally  M.  Lacroix  was  led 
into  hot  water  by  his  democratic  tendencies ;  as,  for  in- 
stance, when  he  incurred  fine  and  imprisonment  for  issuing 
Proudhon's  annotated  edition  of  the  Gospels,  whereupon  he 
became  so  alarmed  that  for  some  time  he  would  not  con- 
tinue the  publication  of  Hamel's  whitewashing  of  Bobes- 
pierre,  of  which  he  had  already  issued  the  first  volume. 
In  fiction  he  was  often  venturesome ;  for  he  not  only  pro- 
duced "  Manette  Salomon  "  and  "  Madame  G-ervaisais  "  for 
the  Goncourts,  but  he  issued  "  Le  Maudit "  and  other  no- 
torious volumes  by  the  Abb£  *  *  *,  —  really  the  Abb6 
Michon,  —  an  author  whom  Zola  did  not  hesitate  to  "  slate  " 
in  a  provincial  newspaper,  though  Lacroix  was  his  own  pub- 
lisher. "Disgust,"  he  wrote, " rises  to  the  lips  when  one 
reads  these  novels  2  floundering  through  filth,  as  vulgar  in 
form  as  they  are  in  thought,  and  pandering  to  the  gross 
appetites  of  the  multitude.  One  must  assume  that  all  this 
vileness  and  vulgarity  is  intentional  on  the  author's  part : 
he  has  written  for  a  certain  public  and  has  served  it  the 
spicy  and  evil-smelling  ragouts  which  he  knows  will  please 

it.». 

On  the  other  hand,  calling  now  and  again  at  the  Librairie 

1  The  present  writer  can  speak  of  these  matters  from  personal  knowledge  ; 
he  well  knew  M.  Bourdilliat,  the  founder  of  the  Librairie  Nouvelle,  and 
afterwards  connected  for  many  years  with  "  Le  Monde  Illustre,"  which 
Frank  Vizetelly  helped  to  establish,  and  of  which  he  was  the  first  editor. 
As  for  the  Librairie  Internationale,  it  became  the  commercial  agency  of  the 
"  Illustrated  London  News,"  which  Henry  Vizetelly  (the  writer's  father)  repre- 
sented in  Paris  for  several  years. 

2  "Le  Maudit"  was  followed  by  "La  R&igieuse,"  "Le  Je"suite,"  "Le 
Moine,"  etc,,  all  of  these  books  having  very  large  sales  in  Paris, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER   91 

Internationale,  Zola  there  acquired  no  little  information 
which,  became  useful  for  his  contributions  to  "L'fiv&ie- 
inent,"  besides  making  the  acquaintance  of  various  literary 
men.  But  his  old  friends  remained  his  favourite  ones,  and 
Cezanne,  the  painter,  ranked  foremost  among  them.  He, 
C&anne,  had  become  a  fervent  partisan  of  the  new  school  of 
art,  the  school  which  Zola  called  that  of  the  Open  Air,  and 
which  led  to  Impressionism.  Zola  himself  had  strong  artis- 
tic leanings  and  sympathies ;  he  spent  hours  in  the  studio 
of  his  friend,  who  introduced  him  to  several  other  young 
painters,  first  Guillemet,  then  Edouard  B£liard,  Pissarro, 
Claude  Monet,  Degas,  Renoir,  Fantin-Latour,  —  as  well  as 
Theodore  Duret,  art  critic  and  subsequently  historian  — 
with  all  whom  he  often  discussed  art  at  the  famous  Caf6 
G-uerbois  at  Batignolles.  A  little  later,  Guillemet  and 
Duranty  the  novelist,1  with  whom  Zola  had  kept  up  an 
intercourse  since  leaving  Hachette's,  introduced  him  to 
jEdouard  Manet,  the  recognised  leader  of  the  new  school ; 
and  in  all  likelihood  Zola,  about  the  same  time,  came  across 
the  unlucky  Leopold  Tabar,  a  born  colourist,  whom  Delacroix 
had  favoured  and  helped. 

Tabar  produced  one  striking  and  almost  perfect  painting, 
a  "  Saint  Sebastian,"  but  the  rest  of  his  life  was  consumed  in 
ineffectual  efforts.  His  sketches  were  admirable,  but  he 
could  never  finish  a  picture,  and  his  failures  were  accentu- 
ated by  his  constant  ambition  to  produce  something  huge, 
something  colossal.  Yet  for  years  he  was  regarded  as  a 
coming  great  man.  He  had  failed  with  his  last  picture,  no 
doubt,  but  his  next  would  be  a  masterpiece.  He  died  at 
last  in  misery.  And  so  much  of  his  story  corresponds  with 
1  See  mte,  p.  66. 


92      &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

that  of  Zola's  novel,  "  I/GEuvre,"  that  it  seems  certain  the 
author  must  have  met  the  unfortunate  painter,  and  have 
blended  his  life  with  that  of  C&anne  and  others  when 
preparing  his  study  on  the  art-world  of  Paris.1 

It  was  undoubtedly  because  Zola  found  himself  thrown 
so  much  among  the  young  painters  of  the  new  school  that 
he  asked  Villemessant  to  let  him  write  some  critical  arti- 
cles on  the  Salon  of  1866,  a  request  which  the  editor  of 
"  L'Evenement "  seems  to  have  granted  readily  enough.  It 
is  a  curious  circumstance  that  scores  of  prominent  French 
authors,  including  famous  poets,  historians,  novelists,  and 
playwrights,  have  written  on  one  or  another  Salon  at  some 
period  of  their  careers.  It  used  to  be  said  in  Paris,  half  in 
jest,  half  in  earnest,  that  nobody  could  aspire  to  literary 
fame  of  any  kind  without  having  criticised  at  least  one  of 
the  annual  fine-art  shows  in  the  Champs  Elys^es.  In  any 
case  the  admission  of  t(  non-professionals/*  so  to  say,  among 
the  critics,  has  been  beneficial  with  respect  both  to  the 
quality  of  art  and  the  diffusion  of  artistic  perception  in 
France.  It  has  more  than  once  led  painting  out  of  the 
beaten  track,  checked  the  pontiffs  of  narrow  formulas,  en- 
couraged the  young,  helped  on  the  new  schools.  At  times 
the  professional  art  critic  has  found  his  harsh  dogmas  and 
slavish  traditions  shattered  by  the  common  sense  of  his 
non-professional  rival  In  England  it  happens  far  too  often 
that  the  same  men  write  on  art  in  the  same  jargon  and  in 
the  same  newspapers  and  periodicals  for  years  and  years. 
In  the  long  run,  they  fail  to  interest  their  readers :  they 

1  The  above  passage  corrects  and  supplements  the  particulars  given  by  the 
writer  in  the  preface  to  the  English  translation  of  "L'GEuvre,"  edited  "by 
him.  "  His  Masterpiece,"  by  E.  Zola,  London,  Chatto  and  Windus,  1902. 


IMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    93 

are  for  ever  repeating  the  same  things.  They  cannot  ap- 
preciate any  novelty:  their  vision  has  become  too  preju- 
diced. And  they  exercise  no  healthy,  educating,  vivifying 
influence.  It  is  no  wonder,  then,  that  the  diffusion  of  artis- 
tic culture  in  England  should  proceed  very  slowly. 

Of  course,  even  in  France,  the  partisans  of  old  and  recog- 
nised schools  do  not  immediately  welcome  a  new  one.  For 
the  most  part  they  defend  their  acquired  position  with  all 
the  vigour  they  possess.  And  the  battle  may  go  on  for  some 
years  before  a  new  formula  triumphs,  soon  to  find,  perhaps,  yet 
another  one  preparing  to  challenge  its  hard-earned  victory. 
When  Zola,  whose  eyes  treasured  memories  of  the  bright 
sunlight  of  Provence,  who  could  recall  the  limpid  atmos- 
phere of  the  hillsides  that  girdled  Aix,  entered  the  lists  to 
do  battle  for  the  new  realists  of  that  time  he  encountered  a 
terrific  opposition.  It  had  been  arranged  with  Villemessant 
that  he  should  write  from  sixteen  to  eighteen  articles,  pass- 
ing the  entire  Salon  in  review ;  but  he  penned  and  pub- 
lished seven  only  —  the  first  two,  which  dealt  with  the 
exhibition  jury  and  its  system  of  admitting  and  excluding 
pictures,  being  written  prior  to  May  1,  the  opening  day. 
These  articles,  which  accused  the  jury  of  manifest  injustice 
in  excluding  Edouard  Manet,  and  almost  every  artist  who 
shared  his  tendencies,  created  quite  an  uproar  in  the  Pari- 
sian art- world,  which  increased  when  a  third  article  denounced 
the  absolute  mediocrity  of  some  eighteen  hundred  and  ninety 
of  the  two  thousand  pictures  which  had  been  "  hung."  A 
fourth  article,  in  vindication  of  Manet  and  his  methods, 
and  a  fifth  praising  Claude  Monet's  "  Camille,"  and  attack- 
ing Vollon,  Ribot,  Bonvin,  and  Roybet  as  spurious  realists, 
brought  matters  to  a  climax.  Villemessant  and  Zola  him- 


94       iMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

self  were  assailed  with  letters  of  complaint,  some  hundreds 
of  readers  (inspired  for  the  most  part  by  the  artistic  enemies 
of  the  *  Open-Air  "  school)  demanding  the  critic's  immediate 
dismissal  or  withdrawal.  Zola's  articles,  it  may  be  said, 
were  signed  with  the  mm  de  plume  of  "  Claude/'  —  in  mem- 
ory, no  doubt,  of  "  Claude's  Confession/*  and  in  anticipation 
of  the  «  Claude  Lantier  "  of  "  L'GEuvre,"  —  nevertheless,  his 
identity  having  been  divulged,  he  was  freely  abused  by  the 
critics  of  rival  newspapers,  and  was  even  threatened  with 
a  duel. 

At  that  time,  it  should  be  mentioned,  Edouard  Manet, 
whose  high  talent  needs  no  praise  nowadays,  was  generally 
regarded  as  a  mystifier,  an  impudent  scamp  who  delighted 
to  play  jokes  with  the  public,  and  it  followed  that  this  man 
Zola,  who  defended  him,  must  be  either  another  mystifier 
or  else  a  mere  ignorant  jackass.  Villemessant,  however, 
less  alarmed  than  amused  by  the  storm  which  had  been 
raised,  was  unwilling  to  dismiss  him.  In  lieu  thereof  he  de- 
cided to  run  a  second  series  of  articles  on  the  Salon,  one  of 
the  orthodox  type,  by  Theodore  Pelloquet,  which  it  was 
thought  would  counterbalance  the  revolutionary  utterances 
emanating  from  Zola.  But  this  decision,  although  almost 
worthy  of  Solomon,  did  not  satisfy  the  readers  of  "  L'Ev6ne- 
ment."  They  would  not  have  Zola  as  art  critic  at  any  price, 
and  so  he  brought  his  campaign  to  an  end  after  two  more 
strongly  written  articles.  In  the  first,  truthfully  enough, 
and  in  a  regretful  spirit,  he  pointed  out  the  decline  of 
Courbet,  Millet,  and  particularly  Theodore  Bousseau,  whose 
pictures  that  year  were  of  an  inferior  quality,  while,  in  the 
second,  after  attacking  Fromentin  for  painting  Oriental 
scenes  with  plenty  of  colour,  but  with  an  absolute  lack  of 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOKMER      95 

light,  he  turned  the  now-forgotten  Nazon's  sunsets  into 
ridicule,  and  dismissed  Gdrome  and  Dubuffe  with  a  few 
stinging  words*  On  the  other  hand,  he  praised  Daubigny, 
Pissarro  (then  a  newcomer  among  the  realists),  and  Corot, 
observing  of  the  last,  however,  that  he  would  like  his  work 
far  better  if  he  would  only  slaughter  the  nymphs  with 
which  he  peopled  his  woods,  and  set  real  peasants  in  their 
places.  And  he  wound  up  as  follows,  in  words  which,  ap- 
plied to  much  of  his  after-life,  were  almost  prophetic:  — 

"In  these  articles  I  have  defended  M,  Manet  as,  throughout 
my  life,  I  shall  always  defend  every  frank  personality  that  may 
be  assailed.  I  shall  always  be  on  the  side  of  the  vanquished. 
There  is  always  a  contest  between  men  of  unconquerable  tempera- 
ments and  the  herd.  I  am  on  the  side  of  the  temperaments, 
and  I  attack  the  herd.  Thus  my  case  is  judged,  and  I  am 
condemned.  I  have  been  guilty  of  such  enormity  as  to  fail  to 
admire  M.  Dubuffe,  after  admiring  Courbet  —  the  enormity  of 
complying  with  inexorable  logic.  Such  has  been  my  guilt  and 
simplicity  that  I  have  been  unable  to  swallow  without  disgust  the 
fadeurs  of  the  period,  and  have  demanded  power  and  originality 
in  artistic  work.  I  have  blasphemed  in  declaring  that  the  history 
of  art  proves  that  only  temperaments  dominate  the  ages,  and 
that  the  paintings  we  treasure  are  those  which  have  been  lived 
and  felt.  I  have  committed  such  horrible  sacrilege  as  to  speak 
with  scant  respect  of  the  petty  reputations  of  the  day  and  to 
predict  their  approaching  demise,  their  passage  into  eternal 
nothingness.  I  have  behaved  as  a  heretic  in  demolishing  the 
paltry  religions  of  coteries  and  firmly  setting  forth  the  great  reli- 
gion of  art,  that  which  says  to  every  painter :  *  Open  your  eyes, 
behold  nature.  Open  your  heart,  behold  life.'  I  have  also  dis- 
played crass  ignorance  because  I  have  not  shared  the  opinions  of 
the  patented  critics,  and  have  neglected  to  speak  of  the  foreshort- 
ening of  a  torso,  the  modelling  of  a  belly,  draughtsmanship  and 
colour,  schools  and  precepts.  I  have  behaved,  too,  like  a  ruffian 
in  marching  straight  towards  my  goal  without  thinking  of  the 


96     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

poor  devils  whom  I  might  crash  on  the  way.  I  sought  Truth 
and  I  acted  so  badly  as  to  hurt  people  while  trying  to  reach  it. 
In  a  word,  I  have  shown  cruelty,  foolishness,  and  ignorance,  I 
have  been  guilty  of  sacrilege  and  heresy,  because,  weary  of  false- 
hood and  mediocrity,  I  looked  for  men  in  a  crowd  of  eunuchs. 
And  that  is  why  I  am  condemned." 

Such  writing  as  this  was  bound  to  ruffle  many  dovecotes. 
There  had  previously  been  various  efforts  on  behalf  of  the 
new  school  of  painting,  the  complaints  of  injustice  having 
led  one  year  to  the  granting  of  a  Salon  des  Bdfus&s,  but 
never  had  any  writer  hit  out  so  vigorously,  with  such  dis- 
regard for  the  pretentious  vanity  of  the  artistic  demigods  of 
the  hour.  If,  however,  Zola  was  banished  from  "  L'Ev&e- 
ment "  as  an  art  critic,  he  was  not  silenced,  for  he  repub- 
lished  his  articles  in  pamphlet  form,1  with  a  dedicatory 
preface  addressed  to  Paul  C&anne,  in  which  he  said:  "I 
have  faith  in  the  views  I  profess ;  I  know  that  in  a  few 
years  everybody  will  hold  me  to  be  right.  So  I  have  no 
fear  that  they  may  be  cast  in  my  face  hereafter."  In  this 
again  he  was  fairly  accurate :  at  least  several  of  the  views 
then  held  to  be  not  merely  revolutionary  but  ridiculous 
have  become  commonplaces  of  criticism. 

Though  this  campaign  did  not  improve  Zola's  material 
position,  it  brought  him  into  notoriety  among  the  public, 
and  gave  him  quite  a  position  among  the  young  men  of 
the  French  art-world.  At  this  time  he  still  had  his  home 
in  the  Rue  de  Vaugirard,  overlooking  the  Luxembourg  gar- 
dens, but  in  the  summer  of  1866  he  was  able  to  spend 
several  weeks  at  Bennecourt,  a  little  village  on  the  right 

1  "  Mon  Salon,"  Paris,  Librairie  Centrale,  1866, 12mo,  99  pages.  The  arti- 
cles are  also  given  in  the  volume  entitled  "Mes  Hainea"  (Charpentier  and 
Fasquelle). 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       97 

bank  of  the  Seine,  near  Bonni&res,  and  —  as  the  crow  flies 
—  about  half-way  between  Paris  and  Rouen.  Here  he  was 
joined  at  intervals  by  some  of  his  Provencal  friends,  Bailie, 
Cezanne,  Marius  Roux,  and  Numa  Coste ; l  and  they  roamed 
and  boated,  rested  on  the  pleasant  river  islets  and  formed 
the  grandest  plans  for  the  future,  while  Paris  became  all 
excitement  about  the  war  which  had  broken  out  between 
Prussia  and  Austria.  The  crash  of  Koenigsgratz  echoed  but 
faintly  in  that  pleasant  valley  of  the  Seine,  among  those 
young  men  whose  minds  were  intent  on  art  and  literature. 
But  politically  the  year  was  an  important  one  for  France,  for, 
from  that  time,  the  Franco-German  War  became  inevitable. 
The  Napoleonic  prestige  was  departing.  The  recall  of  the 
expeditionary  force  from  Mexico  had  become  imperative. 
In  vain  did  the  unhappy  Empress  Charlotte  hasten  to 
Paris  and  beg  and  pray  and  weep  ;  Napoleon  III,  who  had 
placed  her  husband  Maximilian  in  his  dangerous  position, 
would  give  him  no  further  help,  and  she,  poor  woman,  was 
soon  to  lose  her  reason  and  sink  into  living  death. 

The  year  which  had  opened  so  brightly  for  Zola  was  to 
end  badly  for  him  also.  After  shocking  the  readers  of 
"  L'Evdnement "  as  an  art  critic,  he  imagined  he  might  be 
more  successful  with  them  as  a  story  writer.  So  he  pro- 
posed a  serial  to  Villemessant,  who  after  examining  a  syn- 
opsis of  the  suggested  narrative,  accepted  the  offer.  The 
story  which  Zola  then  wrote  was  called  "Le  Voeu  d'une 
Morte,"  but  it  met  with  no  more  success  than  the  art 
criticisms,  and  after  issuing  the  first  part,  Villemessant 

1  M.  Coste,  who  is  well  known  as  a  publiciste  in  France,  should  have 
been  mentioned  earlier  in  this  work.  Though  not  so  intimate  with  Zola  as 
Bailie  and  Ce"zanne,  he  knew  him  in  his  school  days.  He  largely  helped 
Paul  Alexis  in  the  preparation  of  the  latter's  biographical  work  on  Zola. 

7 


98      fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

stopped  the  publication.  The  second  part  was  never  writ- 
ten ;  yet  the  abortion  —  for  it  was  nothing  else  —  was 
issued  in  volume  form,1  and  of  recent  years  has  even 
been  translated  into  English,2  and  reviewed  approvingly 
by  English  critics !  Zola  himself  always  regarded  it  as  the 
very  worst  of  his  productions.  "  "What  a  wretched  thing, 
my  Mend!"  he  remarked  in  a  letter  to  M.  George  Char- 
pentier  twenty  years  after  this  story's  first  appearance. 
"Nowadays  young  men  of  eighteen  turn  out  work  ten 
times  superior  in  craftsmanship  to  what  we  produced  when 
we  were  five  and  twenty." 

This  second  failure  to  catch  the  public  fancy  injured  Zola 
considerably  in  the  opinion  of  Villemessant,  but  the  latter 
continued  to  take  various  articles  from  him,  such  as  a 
series  of  literary  character-sketches,  entitled  "Marbres  et 
Plfttres/*  in  which  figured  such  men  as  Flaubert,  Janin, 
Taine,  Paradol,  and  About.  These  articles  were  merely 
signed  "  Simplice,"  —  Zola's  name  having  become  odious  to 
the  readers  of  "  L'Ev&iement,"  —  and  portions  were  worked 
by  the  author  into  later  studies  on  French  literary  men. 

About  this  time  Villemessant  found  himself  in  serious 
difficulties  with  the  authorities,  through  having  sailed  too 

near  to  politics  in  a  journal  only  authorised  for  literature 

,» 

and  news.  "  LJEv£nement "  was  suppressed,  but  its  editor 
turned  *  Le  Figaro  "  into  a  daily  organ,  and  Zola's  services 
were  transferred  to  the  latter  journal.  He  contributed  to 
it  a  number  of  Parisian  and  other  sketches,  portions  of 


1  "Le  Yoeii  (Tune  Morte,"  Paris,  Faure,  1866, 18mo.    Reissued  by  Cnar- 
pentier,  1889  and  1891. 

2  "  A  Dead  Woman's  Wish,"  translated  by  Count  C.  S.  de  Soissons,  Lon- 
don, 1902. 


£MILE  ZOLA*  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     99 

which  will  be  found  under  the  title  "  Souvenirs,"  in  a  sec- 
ond volume  of  "  Contes  &  Ninon,"  published  in  1874. 

In  the  latter  part  of  1866  his  pecuniary  position  was  a 
declining  one.  As  he  wrote  to  his  friend,  Antony  Vala- 
brfegue,  he  found  himself  in  a  period  of  transition.  He  had 
penned  a  pretty  and  pathetic  nomelle, "  Les  Quatre  Journ^es 
de  Jean  G-ourdon,"  for  "  L'lllustration," l  but  he  was  chiefly 
turning  his  thoughts  to  dramatic  art,  going,  he  said,  as 
often  as  possible  to  the  theatre  —  with  the  idea,  undoubt- 
edly, that,  as  he  had  failed  to  conquer  Paris  as  an  art  critic 
and  a  novelist,  he  might  yet  do  so  as  a  playwright.  The 
young  man  was  certainly  indomitable ;  after  each  repulse  he 
came  up,  smiling,  to  try  the  effect  of  another  attack.  Already 
in  1865,  although  his  comedy,  "  La  Laide,"  had  been  de- 
clined by  the  Od£on  Theatre,  he  had  started  on  a  three-act 
drama,  called  "  La  Madeleine,"  and  this  now  being  finished 
he  sent  it  to  Montigny,  the  director  of  the  Gymnase  Thea- 
tre, who  replied,  however,  that  the  play  was  "impossible, 
mad,  and  would  bring  down  the  very  chandeliers  if  an 
attempt  were  made  to  perform  it."  Harmant  of  the  Vau- 
deville also  declined  "  La  Madeleine/5  but  .on  the  ground  that 
the  piece  was  "  too  colourless,"  from  which,  as  Alexis  points 
out,  one  may  surmise  that  he  had  not  troubled  to  read  it. 

After  this  experience  Zola  slipped  his  manuscript  into  a 
drawer  and  turned  to  other  matters.  In  December,  1866, 
he  is  found  informing  Valabrkgue  that  he  has  received  a 
very  flattering  invitation  to  the  Scientific  Congress  of 
France,2  and  asking  him,  as  he  cannot  attend  personally, 

1  "I/Illustration,"  December  15,  1866,  to  February  16, 1867.     The  story 
is  included  in  the  "  ISTouveaux  Contes  &  Ninon/'  1874. 
a  It  must  have  been  held,  we  think,  at  Marseilles  or  Aix. 


100     tMILE  ZOLA,   NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

to  read  on  his  behalf  a  paper  he  has  written  for  it  This 
was  a  "  definition  of  the  novel,"  prepared,  said  Zola,  accord- 
ing to  the  methods  of  Taine,1  and  it  embodied  at  least  the 
germs  of  the  theories  which  he  afterwards  applied  to  his 
own  work.  When  writing  to  Valabrkgue  on  the  subject  he 
was  in  a  somewhat  despondent  mood,  for  his  position  on 
"  Le  Figaro  "  had  now  become  very  precarious.  He  wished 
to  undertake  some  serious  work,  he  said,  but  it  was  impera- 
tive that  he  should  raise  money,  and  he  was  "  very  unskil- 
ful in  such  matters."  Indeed,  in  spite  of  every  effort,  he 
did  not  earn  more  than  an  average  of  three  hundred  francs 
a  month.  Nevertheless,  he  still  received  his  friends  every 
Thursday,  when  Pissarro,  Bailie,  Solari,  and  others  went  "  to 
complain  with  him  about  the  hardness  of  the  times."2  And 
he  at  least  had  a  ray  of  comfort  amid  his  difficulties,  for  he 
was  now  in  love,  was  loved  in  return,  and  hoped  to  marry 
at  the  first  favourable  opportunity.  The  young  person  was 
tall,  dark  haired,  very  charming,  very  intelligent,  with  a 
gift,  too,  of  that  prudent  thrift  which  makes  so  many 
Frenchwomen  the  most  desirable  of  companions  for  the 
men  who  have  to  fight  for  position  and  fame.  Her  name 
was  Alexandrine  G-abrielle  Mesley;  before  very  long  she 
became  Madame  Zola. 

In  1867  Zola  put  forth  a  large  quantity  of  work.  Early 
in  the  year  he  quitted  "Le  Figaro,"  and  bade  good-bye 
to  the  Quartier  Latin,  removing  to  Batignolles,  quite  at 
the  other  end  of  Paris ;  his  new  address  being  1,  Rue 
Moncey,  at  the  corner  of  the  Avenue  de  Clichy.  He  was 

1  The  snbstance  of  the  paper  was  worked  into  the  articles  which  Zola  col- 
lected  in  the  Yolume  entitled  "  Le  Eoman  Experimental,"  Paris,  1880  et  seq. 

2  "La  Grande  Revue,"  May,  1903,  p.  254* 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     101 

now  near  Ms  artistic  friends  of  Montmartre,  and  complained 
to  Valabrfegue  of  having  only  painters  around  him,  without 
a  single  literary  chum  to  join  him  in  his  battle.  His  asso- 
ciation with  artists  led,  however,  to  the  production  of  a 
fresh  study  on  Manet,1  and  to  another  abortive  effort  to 
write  a  "  Salon,"  this  time  in  a  newspaper  called  "  La  Situa- 
tion," which  the  blind,  despoiled  King  of  Hanover  had 
started  in  Paris  for  the  purpose  of  inciting  the  French 
against  the  Prussians.  This  journal  was  edited  by  Edouard 
Gr&der,  a  pulliciste  and  minor  poet  of  the  time,  who  was 
well  disposed  towards  Zola ;  but  the  latter's  articles  again 
called  forth  so  many  protests,  that  Gr^nier,  fearing  the 
newspaper  would  be  wrecked  when  it  was  barely  launched, 
cast  his  contributor  overboard* 

Zola  fortunately  had  other  work  in  hand,  having  ar- 
ranged with  the  director  of  a  Marseillese  newspaper,  "Le 
Messager  de  Provence,"  to  supply  him  with  a  serial  story, 
based  (so  Zola  wrote  to  Valabrfegue),  on  certain  criminal 
trials,  respecting  which  he  had  received  such  an  infinity  of 
documents  that  he  hardly  knew  how  to  reduce  so  much 
chaos  to  order  and  invest  it  with  life.  He  hoped,  how- 
ever, that  the  story,  which  he  called  "Les  Mystferes  de 
Marseille,"  might  give  him  a  reputation  in  the  south  of 
France,  even  if  from  a  pecuniary  standpoint  it  provided 
little  beyond  bread  and  cheese,  the  remuneration  being  fixed 
at  no  more  than  two  sous  a  line.  That,  perhaps,  was  full 
value  for  such  matter;  at  all  events  the  London  Sunday 
papers  and  halfpenny  evening  journals  often  pay  no  more, 

1  First  issued  in  the  "  Revue  du  XIX"  Siecle  w  ;  afterwards  in  pamphlet 
form  by  Dentu,  with,  a  portrait  of  Manet  by  Bracquemond,  and  an  etching  of 
Manet's  "  Olympia  "  by  the  painter  himself.  The  text  was  reprinted  in  the 
volume,  **  Mes  Haines." 


102    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

if  indeed  as  much,  for  the  serials  they  issue  nowadays,  the 
majority  of  which  are  no  whit  better  than  was  Zola's  tale. 
It  was  not  literature  certainly ;  hut  it  was  clearly  and  con- 
cisely written,  and  generally  good  as  narrative,  in  spite  of 
some  sentimental  mawkishness  and  sensational  absurdity. 
As  often  happens  with  hack  work  of  this  description  the 
tale  opens  better  than  it  ends.  Long,  indeed,  before  it 
was  finished,  the  writer  had  grown  heartily  tired  of  it,  as 
many  of  its  readers  must  have  perceived.  At  the  same 
time  it  was  not  a  work  to  be  ashamed  of,  particularly  in  the 
case  of  an  author  fighting  for  his  daily  bread;  and  Zola, 
when  at  the  height  of  his  reputation,  showed  that  he  was 
not  ashamed  of  it,  for  on  his  adversaries  casting  this  for- 
gotten "pot  boiler"  in  his  face,  he  caused  it  to  be  re- 
printed, with  a  vigorous  preface,  in  which  he  recounted 
under  what  circumstances  the  story  had  been  written*1 

The  money  paid  for  it  had  been  very  acceptable  to  him, 
for  it  had  meant  an  income  of  two  hundred  francs  a  month 
for  nine  months  in  succession ;  and  it  had  enabled  him  to 
give  time  to  some  real  literary  work,  the  writing  of  his  first 
notable  novel,  "Th&rfese  Raquin."  This  he  had  begun  in 
1866;  the  idea  of  it  then  being  suggested  to  him  by 
Adolphe  Belot  and  Ernest  Daudet's  "V&ius  de  Gordes," 
in  which  a  husband  is  killed  by  the  wife's  lover,  who,  with 

1  Besides  appearing  serially  in  "  Le  Messager  de  Provence,"  "  Les  Mys- 
teres  de  Marseille"  was  issued  in  parts  (16mo)  by  Mengelle  of  Marseilles, 
1867-1868  j  and  in  volume  form  (with  preface)  by  Charpentier,  Paris,  1884. 
Both  "  La  Lanterne  "  and  "  Le  Corsaire,"  of  Paris,  published  the  story  serially 
after  the  Franco-German  "War.  In  the  latter  journal  it  was  called  "  Ua  Duel 
Social/'  by  "  Agrippa,"  under  which  title  it  was  again  issued  in  parts  (12mo) 
for  popular  consumption.  There  is  an  English  translation  :  "The  Mysteries 
of  Marseilles,"  translated  by  Edward  Vizetelly.  London,  Hutchinson  &  Co., 
1895  et  aeq. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER    103 

his  mistress,  is  sent  to  the  Assizes.  Zola,  for  his  part,  pic- 
tured a  similar  crime  in  which  the  paramours  escaped  de- 
tection, hut  suffered  all  the  torment  of  remorse,  and  ended 
"by  punishing  each  other.  An  article,  a  kind  of  nowvelle 
which  he  contributed  to  "  Le  Figaro  "  on  the  subject,  led 
him  to  develop  this  theme  in  the  form  of  a  novel.  In 
parts,  "Th&r&se  Kaquin,"  as  the  author  afterwards  re- 
marked, was  neither  more  nor  less  than  a  study  of  the 
animality  existing  in  human  nature.  It  was,  therefore, 
bound  to  be  repulsive  to  many  folk.  But  if  one  accept  the 
subject,  the  book  will  be  found  to  possess  considerable  liter- 
ary merit,  a  quality  which  cannot  be  claimed  for  Emile 
Gaboriau's  "  Crime  d'Orcival,"  with  which  it  has  been  com- 
pared by  Mr.  Andrew  Lang.  Gaboriau  was  a  clever  man 
in  his  way,  but  he  wrote  in  commonplace  language  for  the 
folk  of  little  education  who  patronised  the  feuilletons  of 
"  Le  Petit  Journal."  No  French  critic,  except,  perhaps,  the 
ineffable  M.  de  Brunetfere,  who  has  declared  the  illiterate 
Ponson  du  Terrail  to  be  infinitely  superior  to  the  Goncourts, 
would  think  of  associating  Gaboriau's  name  with  that  of 
Emile  Zola. 

Under  the  title  of  "Un  Mariage  d'Amour,"  "TWrfese 
Kaquin  "  was  published  during  the  summer  and  autumn  of 
1867,  in  Arskue  Houssaye's  review,  "  L' Artiste,"  which  paid 
Zola  the  sum  of  six  hundred  francs 1  for  the  serial  rights. 
There  was  some  delay  and  difficulty  in  the  matter.  Hous- 
saye,  who  was  bien  en  cour,  as  the  French  say,  and  desirous 
of  doing  nothing  that  might  interfere  with  his  admission  to 

1  £24  or  about  $120.  Houssaye  had  previously  paid  Zola  a  third  of  that 
amount  for  his  study  on  Manet  (see  ante,  p.  101),  and  the  money  had  reached 
the  young  author  just  in  time  to  enable  him.  to  save  his  furniture  from  being 
seized  and  sold  by  a  creditor. 


104      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

the  Tuileries,  informed  Zola  that  the  Empress  Eugenie 
read  the  review,  and  on  that  ground  obtained  his  assent  to 
the  omission  of  certain  strongly  worded  passages  from  the 
serial  issue.  But  the  author  rebelled  indignantly  when  he 
found  that  Houssaye,  not  content  with  this  expurgation, 
had  written  a  fine  moral  tag  at  the  end  of  the  last  sheet 
of  proofs.  Zola  would  have  none  of  it,  and  he  was  right ; 
yet  for  years  the  great  quarrel  between  him  and  his  critics 
arose  less  from  the  outspokenness  with  which  he  treated 
certain  subjects  than  from  his  refusal  to  interlard  his  ref- 
erences to  evil  with  pious  ejaculations  and  moral  precepts. 
But  for  all  intelligent  folk  the  statement  of  fact  should 
carry  its  own  moral;  and  books  are  usually  written  for 
intelligent  folk,  not  for  idiots.  In  the  case  in  point  the 
spectacle  of  Ars&ne  Houssaye,  a  curled,  dyed,  perfumed 
ex-lady  killer,  tendering  moral  reflections  to  the  author  of 
"Th6r&se  Raquin,"  was  extremely  amusing.  Here  was  a 
man  who  for  years  had  pandered  to  vice,  adorned,  beauti- 
fied, and  worshipped  it,  not  only  in  a  score  of  novels,  but 
also  in  numerous  semi-historical  sketches.  For  him  it 
was  all  "  roses  and  rapture,"  whereas  under  Zola's  pen  it 
appeared  absolutely  vile.  In  the  end  Houssaye  had  to 
give  way,  and  the  moral  tag  was  deleted. 

Zola  took  his  story  to  M.  Albert  Lacroix,  who  in  the 
autumn  of  1867  published  it  as  a  volume,  Naturally  it  was 
attacked;  and  notably  by  Louis  Ulbach,  a  writer  with 
whom  Zola  frequently  came  in  contact ;  for  TJlbach  did  a 
large  amount  of  work  for  Lacroix,  and  was  often  to  be  met 
at  the  afternoon  gatherings  at  the  Librairie  Internationale. 
It  was  he  who  had  initiated  the  most  popular  book  of 
that  year :  Lacroix's  famous  "  Paris  Guide  by  the  principal 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    105 

authors  and  artists  of  France  " ;  but  at  the  same  time  he 
did  not  neglect  journalism,  and  just  then  he  was  one  of  the 
principal  contributors  to  "  Le  Figaro,"  for  which  he  wrote 
under  the  pseudonym  of  "Ferragus."  In  an  article  printed 
by  that  journal  he  frankly  denounced  "  Th&rfese  Kaquin  "  as 
"  putrid  literature,"  and  Zola,  with  Villemessant's  sanction, 
issued  a  slashing  reply.  This  certainly  attracted  atten- 
tion to  the  book,  with  the  result  that  a  second  edition  was 
called  for  at  the  end  of  the  year,  which  had  not  been  a 
remunerative  one  for  the  bookselling  world,  for  it  was 
that  of  the  great  Exhibition  when  Paris,  receiving  visits 
from  almost  every  raler  and  prince  of  Europe,  gave  nearly 
all  its  attention  to  sight-seeing  and  festivity.1 

Zola  had  sent  a  copy  of  his  book  to  Ste.-Beuve,  for  whom, 
as  for  Taine,  he  always  professed  considerable  deference, 
though  he  reproached  him  somewhat  sharply  for  having 
failed  to  understand  Balzac,  Flaubert,  and  others.  Ste.- 
Beuve,  having  read  "  Th^r&se  Kaquin,"  pronounced  it  to  be 
a  "remarkable  and  conscientious"  work,  but  objected  to 
certain  of  its  features.  Some  years  afterwards  Zola  had 
occasion  to  refer  to  this  subject,  and  the  remarks  he  then 
penned 2  may  be  quoted  with  the  more  advantage  as  they 
embody  his  own  criticism  of  his  book:  — 

"  I  had  sent  cTh&*ese  Raquin  '  to  Ste.-Beuve,  and  he  replied  to 
me  with  a  critical  letter,  in  which  I  find  that  desire  for  average 

1  "Therese  Kaquin,"  Paris,  Librairie  Internationale:  1st  edition,  1867; 
2d,  1868 ;  3d,  1872 ;  4th  and  5th,  1876 ;  6th,  7th,  etc.,  Charpentier,  1880, 
1882,  etc.  Illustrated  editions:  Marpon,  8vo,  1883;  Charpentier,  32mo, 
1884.  Popular  edition  at  60  centimes:  Marpon,  16mo,  1887.  English 
translations :  (1)  anonymous,  Yizetelly  &  Co.,  dr.  1886-1889  ;  (2)  by  Edward 
Yizetelly,  London,  Grant  Richards,  1902. 

*  "  Le  Voltaire,"  August  10-14,  1880.  See  also  "  Documents  Litteraires," 
by  &  Zola,  Paris,  Charpentier  (and  Fasquelle),  1881  et  $eq. 


106     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

truth,  of  which  I  have  just  spoken.  Nothing  could  be  fairer  than 
that  criticism.  For  instance,  he  remarked  of  my  description  of 
the  Passage  du  Pont  Neuf  [the  chief  scene  of  the  novel] :  <  It  is 
not  accurate,  it  is  a  fantastic  description,  like  Balzac's  of  the  Eue 
Soli.  The  passage  is  bald,  commonplace,  ugly,  and,  in  particular, 
narrow,  but  it  has  not  the  dense  blackness,  the  shades  a  la  Rem- 
"brcmdt  which  you  impute  to  it.  This  also  is  a  way  of  being  unfaith- 
ful [to  the  truth]/  He  was  right ;  only  it  must  be  admitted  that 
places  merely  have  such  mournfulness  or  gaiety  of  aspect  as  we 
may  attribute  to  them.  One  passes  with  a  shudder  before  the 
house  where  a  murder  has  just  been  committed,  and  which  seemed 
quite  commonplace  only  the  previous  day.  None  the  less,  Ste.- 
Beuve's  criticism  holds  good.  It  is  certain  that  things  are  carried 
to  the  point  of  nightmare  in  *Therese  Eaquin/  and  that  the 
strict  truth  falls  short  of  so  many  horrors.  In  making  this  ad- 
mission I  wish  to  show  that  I  perfectly  understand  and  even  ac- 
cept Ste.-Beuve's  standpoint  of  average  truth.  He  is  also  right 
when  he  expresses  his  astonishment  that  Thdrese  and  Laurent 
[the  wife  and  lover]  do  not  content  their  passion  immediately 
after  the  murder  of  Camille  [the  husband]  ;  the  case  is  open  to 
argument,  but  in  the  ordinary  course  of  things  they  would  live  in 
each  other's  arms  before  being  maddened  by  remorse.  It  will  be 
seen  then  that,  in  spite  of  my  own  books,  I  share  this  respect  for 
logic  and  truth,  and  do  not  try  to  defend  myself  against  criticism 
which  seems  quite  just.  Yes,  certainly,  it  is  a  bad  thing  to  for- 
sake the  substantial  ground  of  reality  to  plunge  into  exaggerations 
of  draughtsmanship  and  colouring." 

About  the  time  of  the  publication  of  "  Th^rfese  Eaquin  " 
Zola  at  last  obtained  the  coveted  honours  of  the  footlights. 
In  conjunction  with  his  friend  Marius  Eoux  he  wrote  a 
drama  based  on  his  "Myst&res  de  Marseille,"  and  the  di- 
rector of  the  Marseillese  Gymnase  consented  to  stage  it. 
It  is  possible  that  this  arrangement  was  effected  during  a 
visit  which  the  director  made  to  Paris,  for,  according  to 
some  accounts,  a  trial  performance  of  the  play  took  place 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOKMER    107 

in  the  capital.1  Zola  and  Roux,  being  anxious  to  witness 
its  production  at  Marseilles,  afterwards  repaired  thither, 
and  superintended  the  last  rehearsals;  but  their  hopes 
were  scarcely  fulfilled,  for  although,  as  Alexis  points  out 
rather  naively,  the  first  performance  2  "  proceeded  fairly  well, 
enlivened  by  only  a  little  hissing,"  no  more  than  two  others 
were  ever  given.  And  while  it  is  true  that  a  "  run  "  could 
hardly  be  expected  in  a  provincial  city,  particularly  in 
those  days,  three  solitary  performances,  followed  by  no 
revival,  could  not  be  interpreted  as  signifying  success. 

Perhaps  it  was  the  failure  of  this  effort  that  caused  Zola 
to  abandon  for  some  years  all  hope  of  making  his  way  as  a 
dramatic  author.  Judging  by  the  comparative  success  of 
"Th6rkse  Kaquin,"  novel  writing  seemed  the  safer  course 
for  him.  Accordingly,  he  transformed  his  rejected  play, 
"La  Madeleine,"  into  a  novel,  which  he  entitled  "La 
Honte,"  and  offered  as  a  serial  to  a  certain  M.  Bauer,  who 
had  established  a  new  "  Ev&iement."  Bauer  accepted  it, 
but  its  minute  descriptions  of  the  working  of  sensual 
passion  in  a  woman  shocked  his  readers,  and  the  publica- 
tion ceased  abruptly.  On  the  whole,  this  story,  written  in 
a  large  degree  on  the  same  lines  as  "  Thdr&se  Baquin,"  was 
nofc  a  good  piece  of  work.  When  Lacroix  published  it,  how- 
ever, in  volume  form,  under  the  title  of  "  Madeleine  F^rat," 
it  soon  went  into  a  second  edition.3 

This  was  the  chief  literary  work  accomplished  by  Zola 

1  Theltre  Beamnarchais,  October  17, 1867. 

2  October  27,  1867. 

8  **  Madeleine  F£rat,"  Paris,  Librairie  Internationale,  1st  and  2d  editions, 
1868  ;  3d,  Marpon  and  Flammarion,  1878  ;  4th,  Charpentier,  1880  ;  new  edi- 
tion, Charpentier,  1892,  etc.  Popular  edition  at  60  centimes,  Marpon,  1891, 
English  translation  :  Yizetelly  &  Co.,  dr.  1888. 


108    ]£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

in  1868,  when  lie  also  published  a  variety  of  articles  in 
different  Paris  newspapers.  And  as  his  books  were  now 
selling  fairly  well,  he  began  to  think  of  giving  some  ful- 
filment to  an  old  and  once  vague  project,  to  which  the 
example  of  Balzac's  works  had  at  last  imparted  shape. 
Writing  in  May,  1867,  to  his  friend  Valabrfegue,  he  had 
then  said :  "  By  the  way,  have  you  read  all  Balzac  ?  What 
a  man  he  was  I  I  am  reperusing  him  at  this  moment.  To 
my  mind,  Victor  Hugo  and  the  others  dwindle  away  beside 
him,  I  am  thinking  of  a  book  on  Balzac,  a  great  study, 
a  kind  of  real  romance/* 

That  book  was  never  written,  but  the  perusal  of  "La 
Com^die  Humaine "  and  its  haunting  influence  at  least 
largely  inspired  "  Les  Rougon-Macquart." 


THE  FIRST  "ROUGON-MACQUAETS" 

1868-1872 

The  Goncourts,  Zola,  and  his  proposed  "family  history"  —  Origin  of  this 
idea  —  Degeneration  and  heredity  —  Zola's  agreement  with  M.  Lacroix  — - 
He  hegins  **La  Fortune  des  Rougon" —  His  intercourse  with  Meurice, 
Coppee,  etc. —  His  work  on  "Le  Kappel,"  "La  Tribune,"  "Le  Gaulois" 
—  Sincerity  of  his  democratic  views  —  Gonconrt's  allegation  that  he  would 
have  sold  his  pen  to  the  Empire  —  Some  venal  French  journalists  —  Zola's 
marriage  and  opinion  of  the  married  state  —  His  home  in  the  Rue  de 
La  Condamine — **  Le  Siecle"  and  "La  Fortune  des  Rougon"  —  "La 
CureV'  begun  —  Zola  takes  his  ailing  wife  to  Provence  —  Outbreak  of 
war  with  Germany  —  Zola  and  military  service  —  He  conducts  a  news- 
paper at  Marseilles,  becomes  Secretary  to  Glais-Bizoin  at  Bordeaux,  and 
is  offered  a  Sub- Prefecture  —  His  chances  as  a  state  functionary — He 
reverts  to  journalism  and  literature  —  His  work  on  "La  Cloche"  and 
"  Le  Corsaire  "  —  Publication  of  "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon  "  —  The  public 
prosecutor  and  "  La  Curee" —  Its  issue  in  book  form  —  Failure  of  Zola's 
publisher,  Lacroix —  The  novelist's  dire  distress  —  The  wool  of  his  mat- 
tresses sold  to  buy  bread  —  He  is  recommended  by  Theophile  Gautier  to 
M.  Oharpentier — His  "slop"  clothes  and  his  new  publishing  contract  — 
M.  Charpentier's  generous  honesty  —  How  Zola  passed  from  penury  to 
affluence. 

IT  lias  been  mentioned  already  that  when  the  Goncourts' 
novel,  "  G-erminie  Laeerteux,"  was  published  in  1865,  some 
little  correspondence  took  place  between  Zola  and  the 
authors,  they  being  really  grateful  to  him  for  the  favour- 
able review  of  their  work  which  he  had  contributed  to  "  Le 
Salut  Public,"  of  Lyons.  They  told  him  that  he  alone  had 
understood  the  book,  that  his  frankness  consoled  them  for 
much  of  the  literary  hypocrisy  of  the  times,  and  that  they 
admired  his  courage  in  daring  to  confess  his  likings.1  Sub- 
sequently, wishing  to  become  personally  acquainted  with 

1  "Lettres  de  Jules  de  Goncourt,"  etc.,  Paris,  1885,  p.  219.    (Letter  dated 
February  27,  1865.) 


110    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Zola,  they  called  on  him,  but  found  him  absent.  In  Feb- 
ruary, 1868,  however,  still  remembering  Ms  article  on  their 
book,  they  wrote  to  him  in  praise  of  "  Th&r&se  Raqtdn,"  in 
which  they  detected  the  hand  of  an  artist,  one  who  had 
probed  human  truth  and  crime  to  the  core.1 

From  Alexis's  account  it  has  been  inferred  by  several 
writers  that  Zola  and  the  G-oncourts  became  intimate  in 
1865 ;  but  the  latter's  "  Journal "  shows,  peremptorily,  that 
they  did  not  actually  meet  till  December  14,  18  68,2  when 
Zola  lunched  with  the  brothers  at  their  house  on  the  Boule- 
vard Montmorency,  at  Auteuil.  This  time  the  approaches 
probably  came  from  Zola.8  The  Goncourts  were  preparing 
their  novel  "  Madame  Gervaisais,"  and  he,  with  the  idea  of 
writing  an  anticipatory  article  on  it,  seems  to  have  applied 
for  information,  whereupon  he  was  invited  to  the  Goncourts' 
house.  They  had  pictured  him  as  somewhat  of  a  Norma* 
lien,  a  pedagogue,  and  they  found  him  sickly,  nervous, 
anxious,  deep,  intricate,  in  fact  almost  a  riddle !  He  told 
them  of  the  difficulties  of  his  position,  admitted  that  his 
novel,  "Madeleine  F&rat,"  ran  off  the  rails  and  ought  to 
have  been  limited  to  three  characters ;  complained  of  having 
to  conform  to  idiotic  editorial  opinions  in  some  articles  he 
was  then  contributing  to  "  La  Tribune,"  a  weekly  opposition 
journal,  and  expressed  a  keen  desire  to  find  a  publisher  who, 
over  a  term  of  six  years,  would  pay  him  a  sum  of  thirty 
thousand  francs  for  eight  novels,  in  which  the  history  of  a 
family  would  be  recounted.4  This  history,  of  course,  was 

1  "Lettres  de  Jules  de  Goncourt,"  p.  273  (February  5,  1868). 

2  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Paris,  1888, 1*«  Serie,  Vol.  III. 

*  "Lettres  de  Jules  de  Goncourt."    See  those  of  January  10,  January  17, 
and  April  10,  1869. 

*  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  YoL  III,  p.  245  et  seq. 


Photo  by  C.  Martinet 

Boulevard  Zola,   Aix»in- Provence 


Photo  by  C.  Martinet 

On   the  Banks  ot  the  Arc,  near  Aix 


*  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    111 

that  of  the  Rougon-Macquarts,  which  finally  expanded  into 
a  series  of  twenty  volumes. 

At  a  later  date,  on  August  27, 1870,  while  lunching  with 
Edmond  de  Goncourt,1  —  Jules  had  died  in  the  previous 
June  —  Zola  reverted  to  this  subject  and  expressed  his  con- 
viction that,  after  all  which  had  been  accomplished  by  others, 
such  as  by  Flaubert  in  "  Madame  Bovary,"  after  all  the  an- 
alysis of  petty  shades  of  feeling,  all  the  minute  jewelry  work, 
so  to  say,  which  had  been  done  in  literature,  there  was  no 
longer  any  call  for  the  younger  men  to  imagine  and  build  up 
any  one  or  two  characters ;  they  could  only  appeal  to  the 
public  by  the  power  and  the  breadth  of  their  creations, — 
briefly,  they  must  work  on  a  large  scale.  And  Zola  al- 
lowed it  to  be  inferred  that  it  was  this  view  which  had 
prompted  his  scheme  of  a  family  history. 

But  he  had  not  been  influenced  solely  by  that  considera- 
tion. The  original  germ  of  his  idea  lay  far  back,  in  that 
projected  poetic  trilogy,  "Gen&se,"  which  was  to  have  re- 
counted the  advent,  development,  and  destiny  of  mankind. 
That  vague  scheme,  suggested  by  the  pages  of  Lucretius,  had 
been  resuscitated,  transformed,  modernised,  so  to  say,  by  the 
repeated  perusal  of  Balzac's  "Com^die  Humaine";  and  there 
is  little  doubt  that,  from  the  practical  standpoint  of  personal 
advantage,  Zola  was  also  influenced  by  the  success  of  many 
connected  series  of  books.  It  is  a  question  whether  Bal- 
zac's novels  were  widely  read  at  that  moment.  Cheap,  badly 
printed  on  the  vilest  paper,  they  were  to  be  seen  in  almost 
every  bookseller's  shop,  but  their  covers,  soiled  and  fading, 
often  spoke  of  long  continuance  in  the  dealers'  custody ; 
whereas  there  could  be  no  doubt  of  the  ready  sale,  the  inx- 

*  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  IV,  p.  15. 


112     &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

mense  vogue,  of  Erckmann-Chatrian's  numerous  productions. 
Those  so-called  "Romans  Nationaux"  hung  well  together, 
thanks  to  a  variety  of  connecting  links ;  and  in  their  pro- 
digious circulation  Zola  constantly  had  hefore  his  eyes  an 
example  of  the  great  success  which  might  attend  a  series  of 
novels  leading  skilfully  one  from  the  other. 

But  he  did  not  propose  to  write  about  the  past,  even  the 
near  past,  such  as  the  First  Republic  and  the  First  Empire, 
which  had  supplied  Erckmann-Chatrian  with  their  themes  ; 
his  aim  was  to  describe  contemporary  manners,  those  of  the 
then-existing  Second  Empire.  That  regime  had  begun  in 
blood,  and  had  passed  through  some  remarkable  phases, 
which  would  provide  him  with  suitable  backgrounds  for 
several  stories.  And  it  followed  —  purely  and  simply  as  a 
matter  of  course  —  that  the  series  he  contemplated  must  be 
largely  a  record  of  social  and  natural  degeneration.  The  de- 
generacy of  the  times  was  a  stock  subject,  a  commonplace 
of  contemporary  literature.  The  playwrights  —  Ponsard, 
Augier,  Feuillet,  Barri&re,  Sardou,  Dumas  fils,  and  others,  had 
harped  upon  it  for  years.  It  had  figured  in  numerous 
novels ;  it  had  formed  the  subject  of  many  volumes  of  so- 
called  "  serious  "  literature ;  it  had  appeared  in  the  pages  of 
Tocqueville,  it  had  found  an  echo  amid  even  the  hopefulness 
of  Pr^vost-Paradol's  "  France  Nouvelle  " ;  it  was  a  theme 
repeatedly  selected  by  those  newspapers  which  did  not 
pander  to  the  supporters  of  the  demi-monde.  No  doubt, 
there  has  never  been  a  time,  since  men  began  to  write,  when 
some  of  them  have  not  pictured  the  world  and  the  human 
species  as  degenerate.  The  cry,  0  !  tempora,  0  !  mores,  has 
re-echoed  through  all  the  centuries  indiscriminately.  But 
under  a  rigime  so  base  and  corrupt  as  the  Second  French 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER   113 

Empire  it  was  justifiable.  There  could  then  be  no  doubt 
that  degeneracy  was  indeed  attacking  the  nation. 

What  Zola  himself  thought  on  the  subject  was  indicated 
by  him  with  vigorous  indignation  in  a  newspaper  article 
apropos  of  the  licentious  operettas  of  the  time.  Protesting 
against  all  the  clappers  who  went  into  ecstasies  when  a  so- 
called  actress  emphasised  "  some  obscene  expression  by  her 
contortions,"  he  exclaimed :  *'  Ah,  mis^re  !  on  the  day  when 
the  sublime  idea  occurs  to  some  woman  to  play  the  part  of  a 
,  au  naturel,  on  the  stage,  Paris  will  fall  ill  with  en- 
thusiasm. But  what  else  can  you  expect  ?  We  have  grown 
up  amid  shame ;  we  are  the  bastard  progeny  of  an  accursed 
age.  As  yet  we  have  only  reached  jerking  of  the  hips,  ex- 
hibition of  the  bosom ;  but  the  slope  is  fatal,  and  we  shall 
roll  down  it  to  the  very  gutter  unless  we  promptly  draw 
ourselves  erect  and  become  free  men."  * 

But  another  point  has  to  be  considered.  At  the  very  out- 
set of  Zola's  scheme  the  predisposition  towards  certain 
branches  of  science  which  he  had  shown  in  his  youth 
revived.  The  question  of  hereditary  influence  had  already 
attracted  his  attention  while  he  was  writing  "Madeleine 
3?6rat,"  and  it  assumed  larger  proportions  and  greater  complex- 
ity when  he  began  to  think  of  his  projected  family  history. 
The  members  of  the  family  in  question  (like  all  others) 
would  be  affected  not  merely  by  their  actual  environment 
but  also  by  psychological  conditions  coming  from  their 
progenitors.  Zola  felt  that  he  must  study  the  question 
carefully,  and  for  some  months  his  spare  time  was  spent  at 
the  Bibliothfeque  Imperiale  (now  Rationale)  where  he  read 
every  book  he  could  discover  treating  of  hereditary  influence. 

*  "La  Tribune,"  October,  1869. 
8 


114    £MJLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

As  lie  himself  subsequently  stated,  among  the  works  which 
most  impressed  him,  there  was  particularly  one  by  a  now 
almost  forgotten  scientist,  Dr.  Prosper  Lucas,1  the  brother 
of  Charles  Lucas,  the  eminent  pioneer  in  criminology. 

At  the  end  of  1868  Zola  drew  up  a  scheme  of  his  proposed 
"family  history/1  even  then  preparing  the  original  genea- 
logical tree  of  the  Eougon-Macquarts  such  as  he  conceived 
it.2  He  set  down  also  the  terms  on  which  he  would  write 
the  series,  which  at  this  date  he  proposed  to  limit  to  twelve 
volumes.  And  he  carried  everything  to  his  publisher,  M. 
Lacroix,  who,  while  regarding  the  offer  favourably,  would 
not  bind  himself  at  the  outset  for  more  than  the  first  four 
volumes.  An  agreement  in  that  sense  was  signed  in  the 
spring  of  1869 ;  it  being  stipulated  that  Zola  was  to  write 
two  volumes  each  year  and  to  receive  five  hundred  francs  a 
month  from  Lacroix,  not  in  actual  payment  for  his  work  but 
as  an  advance.  The  stories  were  to  be  sold  in  the  first  in- 
stance to  newspapers  for  serial  issue,  and  with  the  proceeds 
of  those  sales  the  publisher  was  to  be  refunded  his  advances, 
wholly  or  in  part.  On  the  subsequent  publication  in  book 
form  (each  volume  being  priced  at  three  francs  3)  the  author 
was  to  receive  a  royalty  of  forty  centimes  (or  about  thirteen 
per  cent)  on  every  copy  sold.  But  if  the  publisher's  ad- 
vances had  not  been  fully  repaid  with  the  newspaper  money 

*  *'  Traite  philosophique  et  physiologique  de  THdredite  N*aturelle  dans  les 
£tatsde  sante*  et  de  maladie  du  Systeme  ETerveux,"  Paris,  1847-1850,  2  vols. 

8VO. 

a  This  tree  was  subsequently  inserted  at  the  "beginning  of  "Une  Page 
d'Amour,"  1878  et  seg.  The  leaves  bear  the  names  of  twenty-six  characters, 
But  the  series  expanded,  and  with  its  last  volume,  "Le  Docteur  Pascal,'* 
1893,  a  new  genealogical  tree  was  issued  giving  six  more  names. 

9  That  was  then  the  usual  price  of  a  French  novel.  The  rise  to  3  franca 
50  centimes  took  place  after  the  War  of  1870. 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    115 

he  was  to  reimburse  himself  out  of  the  book  royalties  as 
they  accrued. 

So  far,  the  arrangement,  though  somewhat  unusual,  would 
not  seem  to  have  been  unduly  intricate,  but  it  was  rendered 
so  by  the  further  stipulation  that  every  month,  on  receiving 
his  advance  of  five  hundred  francs,  Zola  should  hand  Lacroix 
a  promissory  note  for  that  amount,  at  three  months'  date, 
those  notes  being  renewable  until  each  volume  was  issued, 
when  a  proper  account  was  to  be  drawn  up.  But  with  this 
system  confusion  set  in,  particularly  as  after  a  long  delay 
in  the  serial  issue  of  the  first  volume  the  War  of  1870 
supervened,  in  consequence  of  which  M.  Lacroix  found 
himself  in  serious  financial  difficulties. 

To  Zola,  at  the  outset,  everything  seemed  clear  sail- 
ing. He  had  ensured  himself  an  annual  income  of  six 
thousand  francs l  for  at  least  two  years,  and  he  had  only 
to  set  to  work.  Thus,  in  May,  1869,  he  started  on  his 
first  volume,  "La  Fortune  des  Rougon,"  in  which  he  pic- 
tured the  origin  of  the  family  whose  history  he  proposed 
to  recount,  and  its  first  ignoble  rise  to  position  with  the 
help  of  Louis  Napoleon's  coup  d'etat.  The  scene  of  the 
narrative  was  laid  at  Aix,  which  had  so  long  been  Zola's 
home  and  which,  for  his  literary  purposes,  he  now  called 
Plassans.2 

His  book  was  written  in  a  Republican  spirit  with  con- 
siderable boldness  for  those  Imperial  times.  And  in  this 
connection,  by  way  both  of  refuting  a  suggestion  made  by 
Edmond  de  Goncourt,  that  Zola,  in  his  penury,  would  will- 
ingly have  sold  himself  to  the  Empire,  had  it  chosen  to  buy 
him,  and  of  showing  the  young  author's  participation  in  the 

l  £240,  about  $1,200.  3  See  <mtc,  p,  30. 


116     ^MTLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

journalism  of  the  period,  it  is  as  well  that  one  should 
momentarily  retrace  one's  steps. 

Already  in  1867,  through  M.  Albert  Lacroix,  his  publisher, 
Zola  had  become  acquainted  with  M.  Paul  Menrice,  an  able 
novelist  and  playwright,  best  known,  however,  by  his  con- 
nection with  Victor  Hugo.  The  great  man  had  a  horror  of 
proof -correcting,  and  even  in  his  lifetime  much  of  his  writ- 
ing was  passed  for  the  press  and,  one  may  add,  revised  by 
M.  Meurice,  to  whom,  since  then,  has  fallen  the  task  of 
editing  both  the  poet's  correspondence  and  the  editions 
definitives  of  his  books.  In  the  last  years  of  the  third 
Napoleon's  reign  Hugo  lived  at  Brussels,  M.  Meurice  acting 
in  many  matters  as  his  Parisian  representative.1  Madame 
Meuriee's  drawing-room  was  thrown  open  to  all  the  Hugo- 
litres  of  the  time ;  and  Zola  often  attended  her  receptions, 
accompanied  on  some  occasions  by  Duranty,  on  others  by 
Manet  He  then  met  several  of  the  so-called  Parnassian 
poets,2  who,  though  their  methods  were  often  very  different 
from  those  of  the  master,  professed  great  admiration  for  him. 
Such  were  Sully  Prudhomme  and  Francois  Copp^e,  both  of 
whom  Zola  first  met  in  Madame  Meurice's  drawing-room. 
With  M.  Coppfe,  his  relations  became  and  remained  intimate 
until  the  great  Dreyfus  case,  when  the  so-called  "poet  of 
the  humble,"  suffering  from  a  serious  chronic  disorder,  and 
fearful  of  losing  the  services  of  an  expert  medical  attendant 
devoted  to  the  priestly  cause,  resolved  to  save  both  soul 
and  body  by  joining  the  great  crusade  against  the  Jews. 

1  Notably  with  regard  to  the  publication  of  that  extraordinary  romance, 
"L'Homme  c[ui  Rit,"  for  which.  Lacroix  paid  much  more  than  its  value. 

2  The  Parnassians,  who  were  brought  together  by  Xavier  de  Ricard,  dated 
from  about  1860.    The  first  series  of  "Le  Parnasse  contemporain  "  was  issued 
by  Lenaerre  in  1866. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  117 

Towards  the  close  of  1868  politics  passed  before  litera- 
ture in  Madame  Meurice's  salon,  for  the  tide  of  opposition 
to  the  Empire  was  then  rising  rapidly.  In  May,  that  year, 
Henri  Rochefort,  thanks  to  a  new  press  law  and  the  help 
of  Villemessant,  had  started  his  famous  periodical,  "  La 
Lanterne";  and  in  all  directions  the  liberal  newspapers 
had  become  more  and  more  outspoken,  in  spite  of  the  many 
sentences  to  fine  and  imprisonment  which  were  heaped  on 
their  managers,  writers,  and  printers.  The  grant  of  the 
right  of  public  meeting  added  to  the  general  unrest,  and 
when  1869  arrived  the  excitement  of  the  Parisians  be- 
came the  greater  as  general  elections  were  appointed  to 
take  place  in  May.  "La  Lanterne"  having  been  crushed 
—  Rochefort  seeking  an  asylum  in  Belgium  where  Hugo 
gave  him  hospitality  —  many  suggestions  of  starting  an- 
other opposition  journal  were  made  in  Madame  Meurice's 
salon.  A  certain  Barbieux,  a  victim  of  the  Coup  d?li!tat, 
carried  the  idea  to  Hugo  at  Brussels,  and  no  satisfac- 
tory title  having  been  as  yet  suggested,  the  poet  under- 
took to  provide  one.  The  next  morning,  says  Rochefort 
in  his  autobiography,1  he  proposed  "Le  Rappel"  —  a  speak- 
ing title  for  those  times,  signifying  a  call  to  arms,  the 
mustering  of  all  who  wished  to  shake  off  the  rule  of 
Napoleon  IIL 

From  the  first  gossip  at  Madame  Meurice's  it  had  been 
arranged  that  Zola  should  belong  to  the  staff  of  the  pro- 
posed journal,  the  principal  contributors  to  which  were 
Charles  and  FranQois  Hugo,  the  great  man's  sons;  Louis 
Blanc  the  historian ;  Auguste  Vacquerie,  perhaps  the  ablest 

1  "The  Adventures  of  my  Life,"  "by  Henri  Kochefort,  English  edition, 
London,  1896,  Vol.  I,  p.  206. 


"118      ^IMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEK 

and  most  fervent  of  all  the  Hugol&tres  ; 1  Paul  Meurice,  of 
whom  one  has  already  spoken;  Rochefort,  who  reprinted 
portions  of  his  "  Lanternes "  in  "  Le  Eappel "  ;  Edouard 
Lockroy,  who  subsequently  married  Charles  Hugo's  widow, 
and  since  those  days  has  been  a  member  of  more  than 
one  Republican  Chamber  and  Ministry ;  Laferrikre,  who 
tinder  the  Eepublic  became  President  of  the  Council  of 
State,  and  later  Governor-general  of  Algeria;  and  finally 
Zola. 

It  has  already  been  shown  that  the  latter  was  by  no 
means  a  frantic  partisan  of  Victor  Hugo;  but  he  was 
drawn  towards  the  great  man's  band  by  circumstances,  by 
an  admiration  for  the  poet,  which  if  tempered  by  his 
critical  sense  was  within  its  limits  perfectly  sincere,  and 
also  by  a  genuine  sympathy  with  the  object  which  the 
projected  newspaper  was  to  further.  In  one  of  his  earliest 
contributions  to  the  press,  one  dealing  with  Napoleon  Ill's 
"  Life  of  Csasar,"  he  had  shown  that  he  in  no  wise  admired 
the  Man  of  Destiny.  Other  early  writings,  even  passages 
of  "Les  Contes  k  Ninon,"  breathed  a  spirit  incompatible 
with  Bonapartist  imperialism.  Further,  life  in  the  Quartier 
Latin  had  helped  to  republicanise  Zola,  and  when  he  took 
to  journalism  for  a  livelihood,  it  was  to  the  popular  opposi- 
tion press  that  he  naturally  turned.  Even  if  "  L'Ev£nement " 
and  "Le  Figaro"  were  originally  non-political,  their  ten- 
dencies at  any  rate  were  against  the  Empire,  Again,  "  Le 
Salut  Public,"  of  Lyons,  was  not  a  government  journal,  nor 
was  "  Le  Gaulois,"  to  which  Zola  contributed  several  arti- 
cles on  social  subjects,  literature,  and  literary  men  soon 

1  His  brother,  Charles  Vacquerie,  after  marrying  the  poet's  daughter, 
Lfopoldine  Hugo,  had  been  drowned  with  her  off  Villequier,  in  1843. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      119 

after  its  establishment  by  Edmond  Tarb&  Then,  too,  "  La 
Tribune,"  a  weekly  journal  for  which  he  wrote  regularly, 
was  certainly  most  democratic,  if  rather  eccentric  in  some 
of  its  views.1 

Nevertheless,  a  few  years  after  the  invasion  and  revolu- 
tion, Edmond  de  Goncourt,  lunching  one  day  with  Princess 
Mathilde  Bonaparte,  did  not  hesitate  to  declare  that  the 
Empire  might  have  secured  Zola's  services  had  it  chosen. 
"He  was  penniless,  he  had  a  mother  and  a  wife  to  keep, 
At  the  outset  he  had  no  public  opinions.  You  could  have 
had  htm  on  your  side  like  many  others,  had  you  chosen. 
He  could  only  find  democratic  newspapers  to  take  his  copy. 
Living  among  all  those  folk,  he  became  a  democrat.  It 
was  quite  natural."  And  Goncourt  added  that  the  Princess 
Mathilde  had  disarmed  many  hatreds  and  angers  by  her 
friendship,  graciousness,  and  attentions,  winning  over  such 
men  as  himself,  his  brother,  .and  Flaubert  to  the  Empire 
which,  otherwise,  they  also  would  have  attacked.2 

Those  allegations,  so  far  as  they  concern  Zola,  cannot  be 
left  unanswered.  The  Goncourts'  "Journal"  shows  that 
the  brothers,  with  all  their  gifts,  were  not  men  of  the 
highest  principles ;  and  it  is  evident  that  they  often  judged 
others  by  their  own  standard.  As  a  matter  of  fact  there  is 
no  shred  of  evidence  that  Zola  would  ever  have  sold  him- 
self to  the  Empire.  At  the  time  of  that  regime,  as  subse- 

1  This  was  perhaps  due  to  the  circumstance  that  Glais-Bizoin,  the  enf<mt 
terrible  of  the  Republican  opposition  in  the  Corps  L^gislatif,  played  the  chief 
part  in  the  directorship  of  the  paper,  the  latter^  better  features  being  im- 
parted to  it  by  his  co-editor,  the  scholarly  Eugene  Pelletan.    It  was  run 
chiefly  in  view  of  the  1869  elections  and  Zola  subsequently  remarked  that 
excepting  himself  and  the  office  boy  every  member  of  its  staff  was  a  parlia- 
mentary candidate. 

2  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  VoL  V,  p.  150  (November  13,  1874). 


120        tMJLK  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

quently,  his  chief  interest  lay  in  literature  and  art,  politics 
came  afterwards;  hut  so  far  as  he  concerned  himself  in 
them  hiB  opinions  were  essentially  democratic.  In  all  re- 
spects Edmond  de  Goncourt's  assertions  were  erroneous. 
If  Zola  had  cared  to  sell  his  pen  for  political  purposes  he 
might  have  done  so  with  the  greatest  ease.  In  1868-1869, 
when  he  first  began  to  give  real  attention  to  politics,  the 
authorities  were  only  too  anxious  to  secure  clever  men 
who  might  reply  to  Rochefort  and  all  the  other  opposition 
writers.  Large  sums  were  spent  in  bribing  journalists. 
Yillemessant  was  paid  ten  thousand  pounds  to  shake  off 
Rochefort  and  support  the  authorities;  Emile  de  Girardin 
was  bought  with  the  promise  of  a  senatorship;  Clement 
Duvernois  was  secured  by  being  placed  at  the  head  of  a 
new  journal,  "Le  Peuple  Frangais,"  on  which  the  Privy- 
purse,  in  little  more  than  one  year,  expended  over  fifty- 
six  thousand  pounds.1  More  money  was  spent  on  other 
journals,  new  ones  like  "  L'Etendard,"  for  which  Auguste 
Vitu  (one  of  the  original  characters  of  Murge/s  "Vie  de 
Bohfeme")  was  engaged;  "Le  Public,"  whose  editor,  Ernest 
Drdolle,  was  financed;  and  "  L'Epoque,"  whose  nominal 
proprietor  was  Dusautoy,  the  Emperor's  tailor.  For  these 
and  other  newspapers  contributors  were  required,  and  a 
good  many  clever  but  needy  men  of  lax  principles  pre- 
sented themselves.  The  less  brazen  among  them  found 
their  excuse  in  the  pretended  transformation  of  the  regime  ; 

they  would  never  have  served  the  "personal  Empire" of 

course  not!  —  but  the  "liberal  Empire"  commanded  their 
sympathies. 

1  "Papiers  et  Correspondance  de  ]&  Famille  Imp&iale,"  Paris,  Impri- 
merie  Rationale,  1870. 


&MLLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      121 

It  follows  that  Edmond  de  Goncourt's  estimate  of  Zola's 
democratic  tendencies  was  arrant  nonsense.  Paris  had  been 
the  young  writer's  home  for  several  years  now ;  he  knew 
what  to  think  of  the  Empire,  and  was  against,  not  with,  it. 
However,  he  placed  literature  before  politics,  particularly  as 
all  he  saw  of  the  political  cuisine  of  the  times  inclined  him 
to  regard  many  professional  politicians  with  contempt. 
And  his  Republicanism  was  not  so  intense  as  to  restrict 
him  exclusively  to  Republican  society*  He  admired  the 
Goncourts  and  Flaubert  —  to  whom  the  former  introduced 
him  in  1869 — as  literary  masters,  and  associated  with 
them  freely.  Again,  he  saw  no  reason  why  he  should  not 
contribute  stories  to  "  L* Artiste  "  and  "  L'lllustration,"  even 
if  their  editors  did  not  think  politically  as  he  did.  With 
respect  to  "Le  Rappel,"  though  his  contributions  were  at 
times  political  they  more  frequently  dealt  with  literary 
subjects ;  and  the  independence  of  his  character  was  illus- 
trated by  the  boldness  with  which  he  praised  Balzac  in  a 
journal  patronised  and  in  some  degree  financed  by  Victor 
Hugo,  who  held  that  Balzac  was  fated  to  early  and  absolute 
oblivion,  because  he  could  not  even  write  French.  The 
result  of  Zola's  championship  of  Balzac  in  "Le  Rappel" 
was  the  severance  of  his  connection  with  that  journal. 
This,  however,  did  not  take  place  till  the  last  months  of 
the  Empire,  when  much  of  the  paper's  purpose  was  already 
accomplished. 

In  the  summer  of  1869,  after  signing  his  contract  with 
Lacroix  for  the  first  Rougon-Macquart  volumes,  Zola  felt 
that  he  might  at  last  venture  to  marry,  and  in  July  Made* 
moiselle  Mesley,  to  whom  reference  has  been  made  already,1 

1  See  ante,  p.  100. 


122    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

became  his  wife.  As  he  afterwards  explained,  apart  from 
the  question  of  love,  he  held  "  the  married  state  to  be  an 
indispensable  condition  for  the  accomplishment  of  all  good 
and  substantial  work.  The  theory  which  pictured  woman 
as  a  destructive  creature,  one  who  killed  an  artist,  pounded 
his  heart,  and  fed  upon  his  brain  —  was  a  romantic  idea 
which  facts  controverted.  For  his  own  part,  he  needed  an 
affection  that  would  guarantee  him  tranquillity,  a  loving 
home,  where  he  might  shut  himself  up,  so  as  to  devote  his 
life  to  the  great  series  of  books  which  he  dreamt  of. 
Everything,  said  he,  depended  upon  a  man's  choice,  and  he 
believed  he  had  found  what  he  needed,  —  an  orphan,  the 
daughter  of  tradespeople,  without  a  penny,  but  handsome 
and  intelligent."1 

At  this  time,  after  removing  from  the  corner  of  the 
Avenue  de  Clichy  and  the  Rue  Moncey  to  23,  Rue  Truffaut, 
Zola  had  secured  a  little  house  or  "  pavilion  "  in  the  Rue  de 
La  Condamine,  —  likewise  at  Batignolles,  —  a  house  reached 
by  crossing  the  courtyards  of  a  larger  building  divided  into 
flats  and  facing  the  street.  By  opening  an  iron  gate  one 
gained  admittance  to  a  small  garden  with  a  tiny  lawn,  over 
which  a  large  plum-tree  cast  its  shade,  while  directly  in 
front  of  the  pavilion  was  an  arbour  of  Virginia  creeper. 
Three  rooms  on  the  ground  floor,  and  three  on  the  first, 
"  all  like  little  drawers  with  partitions  as  flimsy  as  paper," 
such  was  the  accommodation  which  the  house  offered ;  and 
the  dining-room  was  so  small  that  when  a  little  later  Zola 
purchased  a  piano,  the  necessary  space  for  it  could  only  be 
obtained  by  transforming  a  kind  of  china  cupboard  into  an 
alcove.2  The  inmates  of  this  band-box  were  four  in  num- 

i  "L'CEime,"  p.  208.  a  "I/GEuvre,"  p.  251.    Alexis,  p.  91. 


£MTLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    123 

her :  Zola,  his  young  wife,  his  aged  mother,  now  in  very 
indifferent  health,  and  his  dog,  a  cross  between  a  sheep-dog 
and  a  Newfoundland/  —  in  a  word  the  faithful  Mathieu,  of 
whose  last  years  and  death  the  novelist  afterwards  wrote 
so  pathetically  in  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre."  A  servant-woman, 
who  slept  out,  attended  to  the  harder  and  dirtier  house- 
work ;  Madame  Zola  the  younger  took  charge  of  most  of 
the  cooking ;  and  it  was  amid  these  conditions,  in  this  little 
pavilion  behind  No.  14,  Kue  de  La  Gondamine,  that  the 
young  author,  who  had  hut  lately  completed  his  twenty- 
ninth  year,  resolutely  set  to  work  upon  one  of  the  greatest 
literary  efforts  ever  made,  one  which  not  only  embraced  a 
most  painstaking  study  of  a  period  and  its  people,  but 
imported  into  fiction,  for  the  first  time  in  its  history,  virtu- 
ally every  application  of  the  scientific  theory  of  atavism. 

Thus  Zola  gave  effect  to  his  old  desire  to  try  to  reconcile 
science  and  poetry  —  which  he  had  only  recently  enun- 
ciated once  more  in  an  article  in  "La  Tribune."  And  in 
the  prosecution  of  this  self-chosen  task  over  a  long  term  of 
years,  amid  many  difficulties,  the  greatest  ridicule,  the  most 
impudent  misrepresentation,  the  most  savage  abuse  that 
every  white-livered  critic  could  think  of,  he  did  not  once 
swerve  from  the  view  he  expressed  in  "  Le  Gaulois  "  about 
the  time  "when  he  was  signing  his  contract  with  Lacroix : 
"If  I  kept  a  school  of  morals  I  would  hasten  to  place 
'Madame  Bovary'  or  'Q-ermirrie  Lacerteux'  in  ray  pupils1 
hands,  convinced  as  I  am  that  only  truth  can  instruct  and 
fortify  generous  souls." l 

That  view  remained  Zola's  till  his  last  hour. 

Early  in  the  summer  of  1869  he  handed  the  opening 
1  "  Le  Gaulofs,"  Maxell  26,  1869. 


124     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

chapters  of  his  first  volume, "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon,"  to 
the  acting-editor  of  "  Le  Si&cle,"  with  which  journal  he  had 
negotiated  its  serial  issue.  *  Le  Sfecle  "  then  held  in  Paris 
a  position  similar  to  that  of  "  The  Morning  Advertiser "  in 
London.  That  is  to  say,  it  was  largely  the  organ  of  the 
licensed  victuallers,  without,  however,  belonging  to  them. 
Even  as  in  England,  there  is  sometimes  said  to  be  a  Beer 
and  Bible  alliance  between  the  brewers  and  the  clergy,  so 
"Le  Si&cle"  represented  a  kind  of  Wine  and  Democracy 
compact.  It  was  found  in  every  Parisian  wine  shop,  and 
during  the  earlier  years  of  the  Empire  it  had  been  the  only 
journal  of  democratic  tendencies  which  the  authorities  tol- 
erated. L6onor  Havin,  who  became  an  Opposition  deputy 
in  the  Corps  L£gislatif,  conducted  the  paper  with  great 
ability  for  several  years,  but  he  was  dead  when  Zola  nego- 
tiated the  publication  of  his  novel,  and  "Le  Si&cle"  had 
fallen  into  the  hands  of  that  journalistic  abomination,  an 
"  editorial  board."  Zola  had  a  friend  at  court  in  the  person 
of  M.  Castagnary,  who  many  years  previously  had  done  for 
Courbet  what  Zola,  comparatively  recently,  had  done  for 
Manet.  But  Castagnary,  while  exercising  considerable  in- 
fluence, helping  to  impart  a  more  resolute  Republican  tone 
to  the  paper,  was  not  all  powerful  in  the  board  room ;  and 
not  only  had  Zola  already  made  a  good  many  enemies  in 
his  own  profession,  but  a  recollection  of  the  opposition 
which  his  earlier  novels  had  encountered  from  the  readers 
of  other  newspapers,  so  influenced  "Le  SifecleV  editorial 
committee  that  it  again  and  again  postponed  the  publication 
of  "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon." 

Thus  Zola  found  himself  in  an  unpleasant  position  at  the 
very  moment  when  he  hoped  to  live  in  a  little  quietude  and 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      125 

comfort.  M.  Lacroiz,  for  some  months,  made  the  stipu- 
lated advances  without  raising  any  difficulty,  but  when 
1870  arrived  the  position  became  more  and  more  un- 
certain. Zola  was  reduced  to  such  a  state  of  anxiety  that 
for  weeks  at  a  time  he  could  hardly  write,  and  it  was 
only  the  encouragement  he  received  from  his  brave  young 
wife  that  gave  him  enough  energy  to  persevere. 

Thanks  to  newspaper  work,  he  earned  just  sufficient 
money  to  live  on  meagrely  from  day  to  day  and  keep  the 
home  together ;  and  at  last,  the  publication  of  "  La  Fortune 
des  Rougon  "  being  still  deferred,  he  turned  from  that  work, 
which  he  had  not  quite  completed,  in  order  to  begin  another. 
This  was  "  La  Cur4e,"  into  which  some  of  his  critics  have 
read  a  great  many  things  which  he  never  put  in  it.  Politi- 
cally and  financially,  it  was  simply  the  story  of  the  Hauss- 
manisation  of  Paris,  while  morally  its  central  intrigue  was 
neither  more  nor  less  than  an  adaptation  of  the  ancient 
legend  of  Phaedra  to  the  corrupt  times  of  the  Empire.  Of 
this  second  book  Zola  had  just  written  the  first  chapter,  at 
the  end  of  May,  1870,  when  "Le  Sifecle"  suddenly  decided 
to  publish  his  earlier  work.  So  once  again  the  young  author 
reverted  to  "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon,"  correcting  the  proofs 
of  the  commencement  and  penning  the  conclusion. 

Things  looked  brighter  now,  but  after  that  year  of  keen 
anxiety  Madame  Zola  was  in  a  very  ailing  state  and  needed 
change  and  rest.  Zola  himself  felt  a  longing  to  get  away 
from  Paris  for  a  time,  and  so,  after  making  various  pecu- 
niary arrangements  with  M.  Lacroix  and  "Le  Si^cle,"  he 
started  with  his  wife  and  mother  for  Provence.  Then,  all 
at  once,  came  the  thunderclap :  Napoleon  III  declared  war 
against  Prussia,  France  was  invaded ;  her  armies  were  sur- 


126     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

prised  at  Wissemburg,  overthrown  at  Woerth,  thrust  back 
from  Borny  and  Gravelotte  under  Metz,  routed  at  Beau- 
mont, surrounded  and  captured  at  Sedan.  The  Empire 
fell,  and  a  fortnight  later  the  Germans  invested  Paris. 
Zola,  now  in  his  thirty-first  year,  was  not  called  upon  to 
undertake  any  military  duties  like  others  of  that  age,  for, 
being  the  only  son  of  a  widow,  the  law  exempted  him  from 
service.  It  is  true,  no  doubt,  that  other  widows'  sons  at 
that  time  occasionally  joined  the  colours  as  volunteers,  in 
spite  of  the  legal  exemption.  And  on  that  account,  at  a 
subsequent  period,  directly  after  the  publication  of  "La 
D£b&cle,"  Zola's  enemies  made  much  of  the  fact  that  he  had 
not  done  likewise. 

But  proper  allowance  should  be  made  for  Ms  circum- 
stances at  the  time.  The  investment  of  Paris  had  cut 
him  off  from  his  usual  sources  of  income ;  he  found  him- 
self virtually  adrift,  at  Marseilles,  with  his  sick  wife  and  his 
old  mother,  who  had  become  more  or  less  infirm.  They  had 
little  or  no  money,  there  was  no  relative  with  whom  they 
might  seek  a  refuge,  and  if  Zola,  in  a  fine  spirit  of  patriot- 
ism, had  gone  to  join  the  army,  the  two  women  would  have 
become  dependent  on  the  charity  of  the  public.  At  first 
Zola  was  at  a  loss  what  to  do.  But  meeting  M.  Arnaud, 
who  had  published  his  "Myst&res  de  Marseilles'*  in  the 
"  Messager  de  Provence,"  he  prevailed  on  him  to  run  a  popu- 
lar halfpenny  war  journal,  which  was  called  "  La  Marseil- 
laise." Zola's  friend,  Marius  Roux,  who  was  then  also  in 
the  city,  joined  him  in  the  venture,  and  between  them  they 
wrote  the  whole  paper,  which  at  the  outset  seemed  likely 
to  prove  successful,  its  sales  amounting  to  ten  and  fifteen 
thousand  copies ;  but  typographical  and  other  difficulties 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     127 

arose,  and  at  last,  instead  of  money  being  earned,  it  was 
lost 

In  December  (1870)  Zola's  position  at  Marseilles  being 
once  more  little  short  of  desperate,  he  went  to  Bordeaux 
to  seek  some  work  there,  that  city  having  lately  become 
the  capital  of  Prance  by  the  removal  of  the  National 
Defence  Delegation  from  Tours.  At  Bordeaux  he  found 
Glais-Bizoin,  under  whom  he  had  formerly  contributed  to 
"  La  Tribune,"  and  Glais-Bizoin,  who  was  now  a  member  of 
the  Government,  a  colleague  of  Gambetta,  Cr^mieux,  and 
Fourichon,  made  him  his  secretary.  Short,  lean,  a  septu- 
agenarian, with  a  glistening  cranium  and  a  nose  like  a  hawk's 
beak,  this  Breton  proconsul  was  one  of  the  amusing  person- 
alities of  the  time.  An  ardent  democrat,  he  had  sat  in 
the  legislative  chambers  of  the  July  Monarchy,  the  Second 
Republic,  and  the  Second  Empire,  making  himself  quite  a 
parliamentary  reputation,  not  by  his  own  speeches,  but  by 
the  caustic,  galling,  and  irrelevant  manner  in  which  he 
interrupted  the  speeches  of  others.  Under  his  aegis  Zola 
became  acquainted  with  the  whole  entourage  of  the  National 
Defence  Delegation,  from  the  astute  and  prim  Q&nent 
Laurier,  who  had  negotiated  the  notorious  Morgan  Loan,  to 
the  dishevelled,  bohemian,  and  nicotian  Georges  Cavali£, 
otherwise  Pipe-en-Bois,  who,  tapping  the  British  ambassador, 
Lord  Lyons,  on  the  shoulder  one  morning,  while  his  excel- 
lency was  somewhat  impatiently  waiting  for  Gambetta,  had 
suggested  familiarly :  "  I  say,  old  man,  don't  bother  about 
the  governor ;  let 's  go  and  have  a  good  glass  of  beer ! " I 

1  The  "Blowitz  Memoirs"  (London,  1903}  give  an  erroneous  version  of 
this  story,  transferring  the  scene  to  the  Quai  d'Orsay,  in  Paris,  and  making 
Cavalie  secretary  to  Paschal  Grousset,  "  Delegate  for  Foreign  Affairs  "  of  the 


128      tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER 

In  these  circumstances  Zola  summoned  his  wife  and 
mother  to  Bordeaux,  and  set  himself  to  write  letters  and 
prepare  reports  for  Grlais-Bizoin,  pending  another  appoint- 
ment ;  for  the  old  democrat,  on  introducing  him  to  Cldment 
Laurier,  who  disposed  of  most  of  the  civil  patronage,  had 
said :  "  I  want  a  prefecture  for  this  young  man,  —  the  first 
one  that  may  fall  vacant."  In  Glais-Bizoin's  estimation, 
Zola's  claim  to  such  a  post  was  self-evident;  for  he  had 
belonged  to  the  staff  of  €t  La  Tribune,"  and  since  the  Kevo- 
lution  of  September  4  all  the  writers  on  that  journal  had 
become  members  of  the  Government,  ambassadors,  or  pre- 
fects. In  Zola's  case  the  first  vacancies  which  occurred 
were  the  prefectures  of  Bayonne  and  Auch,  but  both  were 
secured  by  more  eager  and  active  candidates,  and  all  that 
Laurier  could  ultimately  offer  was  a  sub-prefecture,  that  of 
Castel-Sarrasin,  a  pleasant  little  town  of  seven  thousand 
inhabitants,  on  the  Garonne,  not  far  from  Montauban. 

This  incident  in  Zola's  career  has  been  turned  by  some 
of  his  detractors  into  an  exciting  romance  which  it  is  un- 
necessary to  recapitulate.  The  main  facts  have  been  given 
by  Alexis,  to  whose  Account  a  few  particulars  may  be  added, 
The  war  at  that  time  was  drawing  to  an  end.  Gambetta  was 
anxious  to  prevent  any  partisans  of  the  fallen  Empire  from 
being  returned  at  the  elections  for  an  Assembly,  which  were 
becoming  more  and  more  inevitable  and  imminent.  There 
was  a  sub-prefect  at  Castel-Sarrasin  named  Camille  Delthil. 

Commune  of  1871.  As  Lord  Lyons  was  not  then  in  Paris,  that  Torsion  ia 
obviously  wrong.  The  incident,  which  the  ambassador  himself  narrated  more 
than  once  in  after  years,  really  occurred  at  Tours  late  in  1870,  Cayalie'a 
words  being :  "  Dites  clone,  mon  vieux,  il  ne  faut  pas  se  faire  de  bile,  au 
sujet  du  patron.  Allons  plut6t  prendre  un  bon  bock  ! "  CaYalie"  was  a 
notorious  bohemian,  worthy  of  Murger ;  he  had  been  one  of  the  leaders  of  the 
cabal  against  the  Gkmeourts'  play,  "  Henrietta  Marshal. >f 


6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE       129 

He  was  a  young  poet,  tlie  author  of  a  volume  of  "  Poem.es 
Parisiens,"  to  which  he  afterwards  added  "  Les  Kustiques " 
and  "  Les  Lambrusques."  He  discharged  his  duties  with  the 
literary  grace  of  a  true  Parnassian,  and  a  mildness  which 
arose  from  the  circumstance  that  he  was  himself  a  native  of 
Castel-Sarrasin.  G-ambetta  deemed  him  altogether  too  mild. 
According  to  the  Dictator,  to  ensure  the  return  of  a  Bepub- 
lican  in  that  constituency  a  strong-fisted  sub-prefect  was 
needed,  a  man,  too,  who  could  pen  vigorous  and  stirring 
proclamations.  Now  it  occurred  to  Clement  Laurier  that 
Zola  had  a  vigorous  style  and  a  stern  mien,  so  why  should 
not  the  novelist  be  set  in  the  place  of  the  poet,  the  latter 
being  gently  transferred  to  some  other  office  ?  But  Delthil 
would  not  consent  to  this  arrangement.  Having  been  born 
at  Castel-Sarrasin,  he  gloried  in  ruling  it. 

According  to  the  legend,  he  now  threw  off  all  his  mild- 
ness, barricaded  himself  in  his  sub-prefecture,  and  defied 
both  the  Government  and  Zola,  in  such  wise  that  the  latter, 
although  duly  "  gazetted,"  was  unable  to  take  possession  of 
his  post  when  he  repaired  to  Castel-Sarrasin.  But  he 
never  went  there.  The  truth  is  that  he  had  barely  accepted 
the  appointment  when  Paris  capitulated,  and  Jules  Simon 
arrived  at  Bordeaux  to  put  an  end  to  some  of  Gambetta's 
high-handed  proceedings.  Forthwith,  in  presence  of  the 
general  "  muddle  "  which  arose,  and  with  the  thought,  also, 
that  now  communications  with  Paris  were  restored,  he 
might  revert  to  journalism,  and  ultimately  to  literature, 
Zola  called  on  Laurier  and  withdrew  his  acceptance  of  the 
appointment. 

It  may  be  idle  and  unprofitable  to  speculate  concerning 
"the  might-have-been,"  yet  a  few  remarks  may  well  be 


130      fefcOLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

offered  respecting  this  curious  episode  in  Zola's  career. 
His  original  acceptance  of  Laurier's  offer  was  explained  by 
Mm  to  Alexis.  Those  were  wild  times,  and  every  mind 
was  more  or  less  unhinged.  <£  For  my  part,"  said  Zola,  "  I 
imagined  that  it  was  the  end  of  the  world,  and  that  there 
would  be  no  more  literature.  I  had  brought  the  manu- 
script of  the  first  chapter  of  'La  Cur^e'  with  me  from 
Paris,  and  I  occasionally  looked  at  it  as  I  might  have  looked 
at  some  very  old  papers  which  had  become  mere  souvenirs. 
Paris  seemed  to  me  very  far  away,  lost  in  the  clouds ;  and, 
as  I  had  my  wife  and  mother  with  me  and  no  certain  pro- 
spect of  money,  I  ended  by  thinking  it  quite  natural  and 
advisable  that  I  should  plunge  into  politics,  for  which  I 
had  felt  so  much  contempt  previously,  —  a  contempt  which 
speedily  returned." l 

There  was  some  little  exaggeration  in  those  last  words  as 
the  sequel  will  show,  though  as  Zola  was  a  man  of  absolute 
convictions,  one  who  detested  compromises,  it  was-  only 
natural  that  he  should  look  unfavourably  on  many  politi- 
cians and  their  methods.  But,  whatever  his  views,  it  hap- 
pened that  politics  repeatedly  played  an  important  part  in 
his  Hfe,  even  at  the  time  when  he  appeared  most  devoted 
to  purely  literary  pursuits.  It  does  not  seem  very  difficult 
to  divine  how  his  career  would  have  shaped  itself  had  he 
become  a  functionary.  As  he  had  too  independent  a  char- 
acter to  execute  any  orders  unless  he  regarded  them  as 
right,  he  would  soon  have  found  himself  at  loggerheads 
with  his  superiors,  dismissed  or  compelled  to  resign;  and 
unlike  the  majority  of  the  discarded  functionaries  of  the 
period  he  could  hardly  have  sought  compensation  in  a 
1  Alexis,  I,  c.,  p.  173. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    131 

parliamentary  seat,  for  he  was  no  orator.  Thus,  like  some 
others,  he  might  have  heeome  a  mere  hanger-on  of  the 
Republican  party,  one  of  those  who  only  secured  a  real 
livelihood  subsequent  to  Thiers  and  MacMahon,  when  Gam- 
betta's  influence  again  became  paramount  in  France. 

His  refusal,  at  the  first  opportunity,  of  the  sub-prefectoral 
appointment  which  he  had  only  accepted  as  a  pis-aller,  was 
therefore  wise.  He  could  not  get  rid  of  politics,  whatever 
may  have  been  his  desires,  but  he  at  least  confined  himself 
to  the  duties  of  a, political  journalist.  He  became  a  cor- 
respondent of  "Le  Semaphore,"  the  chief  daily  paper  of 
Marseilles,  his  connection  with  which  lasted  seven  years. 
Further  he  placed  himself  in  communication  with  "La 
Cloche  "  of  Paris,  for  which  he  had  written  a  few  articles 
previous  to  the  Siege,  and  which,  curiously  enough,  was 
directed  by  Louis  Ulbach,  —  the  novelist  and  critic  who 
had  denounced  "Th&£se  Raquin"  as  "putrid  literature." 
That  quarrel,  apparently,  had  been  patched  up,  and  Zola 
and  Ulbach,  while  remaining  of  antagonistic  literary  schools, 
had  found  some  basis  of  agreement  in  politics.  At  all 
events  the  former  now  became  the  descriptive  parliamen- 
tary correspondent  of  "  La  Cloche,"  recording  the  doings  of 
the  National  Assembly,  first  at  Bordeaux,  later  at  Versailles, 
his  connection  with  this  journal  lasting  till  the  summer  of 
1872,  when  he  carried  his  pen  to  "  Le  Gorsaire,"  for  which 
he  wrote  several  fiery  political  articles,  one  of  which,  called 
"The  Morrow  of  the  Crisis"1  almost  led  to  the  paper's 
suppression. 

1  This  was  a  crisis  provoked  by  Thiers'  Presidential  Message  of  November 
13,  1872,  by  which  he  asked  for  the  definite  constitution  of  a  Republic,  a  pro- 
posal which  led  to  a  great  outcry  on  the  part  of  those  who  wished  to  place  the 
Count  de  Chambord  or  the  Connt  de  Paris  on  the  throne. 


1B2  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Leaving  Bordeaux  for  Bans  about  the  time  when  the 
Assembly  removed  to  Versailles,  Zola  who  had  seen  noth- 
ing of  the  German  siege,  at  least  witnessed  various  incidents 
of  the  Commune.1  The  little  house  in  the  Rue  de  La  Con- 
damlne  was  now  again  his  home,  and  at  times  he  went 
about  the  city,  and  at  others  betook  himself  to  Versailles, 
zealously  attending  to  his  duties  for  "  La  Cloche."  At  that 
moment  there  could  be  no  thought  of  book-writing;  but 
after  the  fall  of  the  Commune  at  the  end  of  May,  1871,  he 
again  turned  to  "  La  Cur6e^  and  prevailed  upon  Ulbach  to 
print  that  story  as  a  serial  Considerable  confusion  still 
prevailed  in  Paris,  and  he  was  put  to  many  shifts  for  infor- 
mation which  he  needed — shifts  which  some  of  his  critics 
afterwards  imputed  to  him  as  crimes,  though  the  wonder  is 
that  he  should  have  "teen  able  to  write  such  a  book  at  all, 
in  Mi©  hurly-burly  through  which  France  was  passing. 

**  La  Curfew  began  to  appear  in  "La  Cloche  *  towards  the 
and  of  September  (1871),  and  about  the  same  time  Lacroix 
at  last  published  the  initial  volume  of  the  series,  "La 
Fortune  des  Rougon,"  the  final  chapter  of  which  had 
remained  lying  in  the  offices  of  "  Le  Si&cle  "  throughout  the 
war,  much  to  the  alarm  of  Zola,  who  had  regarded  it  as 
lost.  The  book  met  with  little  sale,  little  recognition,  but 
this  is  not  surprising.  France  had  not  yet  recovered  from 
the  great  convulsions  of  the  war  and  the  Commune,  and 
small  was  the  attention  vouchsafed  to  literature.  Moreover, 
as  Paris  slowly  settled  down  to  a  degree  of  quietude,  it 
desired,  amusement  more  than  anything  else  —  the  spright- 
liest  music,  the  gayest  songs,  the  very  lightest  literature 
obtainable-  It  was  the  usual  reaction,  the  same  which 

1  See  "Swrenirs ;  XIV,"  in  the  "Nouveaux  Contes  k  Ninon." 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEB       138 

had  come  with  all  the  frivolity  of  the  Directory  after  the 
Terrof  s  bath  of  blood.  Produced,  then,  under  the  most 
unfavourable  conditions,  "  La  Fortune  des  Eougon  "  did  not 
even  secure  the  honour  of  a  real  second  edition,  for  the 
copies  which  may  be  found  bearing  the  mention  "second 
edition"  on  their  covers  and  title-pages,  were  merely  a 
residue  of  the  first  one,  only  a  portion  of  which  was  bound 
when  the  book  originally  appeared.1 

This  was  bad,  and  it  seemed  really  as  if  Zola  would  never 
reach  the  end  of  his  troubles,  for  the  Public  Prosecution 
service  took  note  of  "La  Cur6e"  as  it  appeared  in  "La 
Cloche,"  and  adjudged  a  certain  account  of  a  supper  at  the 
Caf£  Eiche  to  be  immoral.  It  was  early  in  November 
when  Zola  received  an  intimation  from  the  Public  Prose- 
cutor requesting  him  to  call  at  his  office.  He  did  so  and 
was  received  by  an  official  who  "advised"  him  to  cease 
publishing  his  story  in  a  newspaper.  Zola  protested  the 
purity  of  his  intentions,  explained  that  his  one  desire  was 
to  show  the  corruption  of  society  under  the  fallen  Empire, 
but  he  finally  accepted  the  official "  advica"  On  Novem- 
ber 8,  then,  he  wrote  to  Ulbach,  asking  him  to  suspend 
publication,  his  letter  being  printed  in  "  La  Cloche  "  with 
the  following  editorial  comment :  "  We  desire  that  the 
public  should  fully  know  that  whatever  may  be  our  per- 
sonal opinion  of  Zola's  analytical  method,  and  whatever 
danger  he  may  incur  from  the  audacity  of  his  studies,  his 
imprudence  is  that  of  a  most  upright  character,  sincerely 
attached  to  truth  in  art." 

1  "La  Fortune  des  Rougon,"  Librairie  Internationale.  1st  and  2d  edi- 
tions: 1871,  389  pages,  18mo,  3  francs;  3d  edition,  Charpentier,  1872,  385 
pages,  18rao,  3  francs  50  centimes.  Thirty-eighth  thousand  on  sale  in  1903. 


134      J3HL1  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

As  It  happened,  the  serial  issue,  if  suspended  in  "  La 
Cloche/1  was  completed  in  a  periodical  called  "  La  KǤpub~ 
lique  des  Lettres**  which  Catulle  Mendfes,  the  poet  and 
son-in-law  of  Th^ophile  Gautier,  was  then  editing.  Mendfes 
placed  himself  at  Zola's  disposal  directly  he  heard  of  the 
affair,  and  curiously  enough  he  rendered  him  a  similar  ser- 
Yice  some  years  later  with  respect  to  "  I/AssommoIr."  The 
first  edition  of  "  La  Cunfe  **  was  produced  hy  Lacroix  early 
in  1872,1  and  soon  afterwards  the  publisher,  whose  interests 
had  been  greatly  affected  by  the  war,  was  forced  to  suspend 
business.  Thus  once  more  the  demon  of  ill-luck  fell  upon 
Zola's  home.  The  "Lettees  parisiennes"  which  he  was 
then  writing  for  **  La  Cloche,**  his  correspondence  for  "  Le 
Semaphore,1*  did  not  supply  all  his  needs ;  terrible  times 
eama  b&ek,  numerous  bills  giYen  to  Lacroix  were  protested, 
executions  followed,  and  on  one  desperate  occasion,  there 
being  nothing  pawnable,  for  everything  had  been  seized 
exaept'  the  bedding,  which  according  to  the  law  could  not 
b©  attached,  the  very  wool  of  the  mattresses  on  which  Zola 
and  his  wife  slept  was  sold  by  the  latter  to  a  dealer  in  order 
to  procure  the  necessary  money  for  bread. 

In  these  distressful  circumstances  a  great  service  was 
rendered  to  Zola  by  a  man  for  whose  literary  style  he  had 
no  great  admiration,  though  curiously  enough  it  was  in 
more  than  one  respect  akin  to  his  own.  This  was  Th&>- 
phile  Gautier  to  whose  connection  with  Catulle  Mendfes 
reference  has  just  been  made.  Gautier  had  a  fair  know- 
ledge of  the  young  man's  literary  work,  and  he  heard,  pro- 

1  **lA  CHT&,"  Librairie  Internationale;  1st  edition:  covers  dated  1872, 
titiie-piges»  1871,  &SO  pages,  18mo>  S  francs ;  2d  edition,  Cnarpentier,  1872, 
854  piges,  ISnio,  S  francs  50  centimes ;  5th  edition,  350  pages,  1876 ;  fiftieth 
thousand  on  sale  in  1903. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE     135 

bably  from  Mendfes,  of  his  terrible  position.  Now  Gautier's 
publisher  was  M.  Georges  Charpentier,  who  had  lately  taken 
over  his  father's  business,  and  one  evening  when  they  and 
Francisque  Sarcey  were  together  at  the  Com^die  Frangaise, 
their  conversation,  during  one  of  the  entr'actes,  fell  on  the 
young  writers  of  the  time.  "There  is  one  among  them/* 
said  Gautier,1  "who  is  very  unlucky,  and  who  is  different 
from  most  of  the  others.  You  should  admit  him  among 
your  authors,  my  dear  Charpentier.  If  I  am  not  vastly 
mistaken  he  possesses  a  touch  of  genius.  His  name  is 
Emile  Zola,  Have  you  ever  heard  of  him?" 

Yes,  both  Charpentier  and  Sarcey  had  often  heard  of  Zola, 
and  had  remarked  his  repeated  efforts  to  get  to  the  front. 
Nevertheless  they  were  somewhat  surprised  by  the  praise 
which  had  fallen  from  Gautier's  lips.  He,  subsequent  to 
this  conversation,  caused  Zola  to  be  informed  of  the  recom- 
mendation he  had  given  him,  and  the  young  novelist  soon 
called  on  M.  Charpentier,  whose  establishment  was  then  on 
the  Quai  du  Louvre.  For  just  one  moment  there  had  been 
a  little  hesitation  on  Zola's  part.  His  only  suit  of  clothes 
was  quite  disreputable,  and  both  he  and  his  devoted  young 
wife  felt  that  he  ought,  at  least,  to  appear  decently  clad 
before  this  publisher  on  whom  his  fate  depended.  There 
was  very  little  money  in  the  house,  but  Madame  Zola  took 
it  and  hurried  to  the  "slop"  market  of  the  Temple,  where 
she  purchased  a  second-hand  suit  of  black,  the  nearest 
approach  to  a  fit  that  she  could  find.  In  those  slop  gar- 
ments—  which  remind  one  of  Daudet's  black  trousers, 
similarly  acquired,  which  suddenly  became  a  military  red, 
having  been  very  imperfectly  dyed  —  Zola  presented  himself 

*  M.  Adolphe  Brisson  in  "Le  Temps,"  October  3,  1902. 


1S6    &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOBMER 

before  Charpentier,  and  was  pleased  to  find  that  he  had  to 
deal,  not  with  the  stern  founder  of  the  business,  whom 
some  authors  regarded  as  a  kind  of  terror,  bnt  with  the  son, 
a  pleaaant,  cordial  man  of  about  his  own  age. 

The  position  was  explained:  Lacrobc  was  ruined,  and 
Zola  wished  to  transfer  his  contract  with  certain  modifica- 
tions, M.  Charpentier  asked  for  twenty-four  hours  to  con- 
sider the  matter,  and  on  the  morrow  an  agreement  was 
arrived  at.  During  a  period  of  five  years  Zola  was  to 
supply  two  novels  every  twelvemonth,  and  Charpentier  was 
to  hand  him  five  hundred  francs  every  month ;  that  is  to 
say,  in  addition  to  the  two  volumes  published  by  Lacroix 
there  would  be  ten  others,  representing  in  the  aggregate  a 
sum  of  thirty  thousand  francs.  Whereas,  however,  in  the 
contract  with  Lacroix,  the  money  received  by  Zola  was 
regarded  as  an  advance,  in  that  with  M.  Charpentier  it  was 
to  be  actual  payment,  in  return  for  which  the  full  copyright 
in  each  of  the  ten  novels  which  Zola  engaged  to  write  would 
belong  to  M.  Charpentier  for  ten  years.  During  that  period 
he  would  be  at  liberty  to  produce  them  in  whatever  manner 
he  pleased,  both  serially  and  in  book  form,  as  well  as  to  sell 
the  rights  of  translation  to  foreign  publishers,  without 
paying  Zola  a  single  franc  beyond  the  stipulated  monthly 
allowance.1  As  Zola  desired  that  the  entire  series  should 
be  in  the  hands  of  one  publisher,  a  desire  which  Charpentier 
shared,  there  was  also  an  understanding  respecting  "La 
Fortune  des  Eougon  "  and  "  La  Curge/'  the  right  to  repub- 
lish  which  was  secured  from  Lacrofx  by  a  payment  of  eight 
hundred  francs. 

The  agreement  with  Gharpentier  certainly  extricated  Zola 

1  AH  that  tike  author  retained  was  the  dramatic  rights. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    137 

from  an  extremely  difficult,  position,  and  it  is  unlikely  that 
he  would  have  secured  better  terms,  or  even  as  good,  else- 
where. But  what  did  they  amount  to?  To  the  prospect 
of  an  income  of  two  hundred  and  forty  pounds l  a  year  for 
five  years,  in  exchange  for  ten  novels.  As  the  sequel 
showed,  such  an  income  would  hardly  have  sufficed  for 
Zola's  wants,  particularly  as  there  were  many  claims  on 
him  with  respect  to  the  bills  he  had  given  Lacroix.  No  less 
than  thirty  thousand  francs*  worth  of  paper  bearing  his 
signature  or  endorsement  was  in  circulation  about  this 
time,  says  Alexis,  and  Zola  had  the  greatest  difficulty  to 
prove  that  he  had  not  been  the  ruined  publisher's  "man 
of  straw."  The  nominal  amount  of  his  indebtedness  was 
swollen,  and  the  intricacy  of  the  position  increased,  by  the 
circumstance  that  many  a  time  when  a  bill  had  been 
renewed  it  had  not  been  returned  to  him,  though  the  new 
bill  was  placed  in  circulation.  It  was  only  in  1875  that 
Zola  was  able  to  recover  his  notes  and  acceptances,  and 
generally  liquidate  his  position,  by  the  payment  of  various 
amounts  in  accordance  with  an  arrangement  entered  into 
with  M.  Lacroix.  The  latter,  be  it  said,  was  an  honourable 
but  unlucky  man,  a  victim  both  of  circumstances  and  of 
misplaced  confidence  in  others. 

But,  to  return  to  Zola.  His  contract  with  M.  Charpentier 
did  not  free  him  from  the  necessity  of  doing  his  utmost  to 
increase  his  income  by  journalism,  to  which  he  devoted  no 
little  time.  This  threw  him  back  with  his  novels,  which, 
as  will  be  shown,  often  necessitated  considerable  prelimi- 
nary study,  and  which  he  refused  to  "  scamp."  The  pub- 
lishing arrangement  he  had  made  partook  undoubtedly  of  a 

*  ATxmt  $1,200. 


188       laCILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 


character;  but  lie  was  resolved  that  there 
should  be  nothing  of  the  nature  of  pot-boiling  about  his 
literary  work  He  found  at  last  that  he  could  not  write 
more  than  one  novel  a  year,  and  thus,  though  he  drew  his 
money  regularly  enough,  the  time  came  —  in  or  about  1875 
—  when  he  owed  M.  Charpentier  two  or  three  volumes. 
Mustering  his  courage,  he  called  on  his  publisher  to  explain 
his  position.  But  at  the  first  words  he  spoke  with  respect 
to  his  overdraughts,  M.  Charpentier  interrupted  him. 

**  My  dear  friend,"  said  he,  "  I  do  not  wish  to  rob  you. 
I  do  not  want  to  derive  more  than  my  usual  profits  from 
your  work  I  have  lately  had  an  account  of  your  sales 
drawn  up  on  the  basis  of  an  author's  royalty  of  forty 
centimes  per  volume,1  and  according  to  this  account,  it  is 
not  you  who  owe  me  money,  it  is  I  who  owe  you  some  ten 
thousand  franca  Here  is  our  agreement,  I  tear  it  up,  and 
aH  you  have  to  do  is  to  see  my  cashier.** 

As  Alexis  remarks,  after  telling  this  story,  what  other 
publisher  would  have  done  such  a  thing  ?  In  Zola's  case 
it  raised  him  from  modest  circumstances  to  affluence.  Had 
the  original  contract  remained  in  force  he  would  have 
earned,  inclusive  of  the  earlier  payments  from  Lacroix,  no 
more  than  forty  thousand  francs  by  the  first  twelve  volumes 
of  his  "Kougon-Macquart  "  series.  At  least  he  would  have 
earned  no  more  during  the  first  ten  years  of  their  circula- 
tion. But  thanks  to  M.  Gharpentier's  generous  honesty,  — 
the  successive  increase,  too,  of  Zola's  royalty  from  forty  to 
fifty  and  sixty  centimes  per  volume,  the  various  sums 
accruing  from  special  issues,  illustrated  editions,  popular 

1  The  books  sold  at  3  francs  50  centimes  each  ;  so  the  above  would  repre- 
sent a  royalty  of  about  11  per  cent. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     139 

editions,  Sditi&m  de  luxe,  serial  rights  and  translation  rights 
—  all  of  which,  under  the  agreement,  would  have  belonged 
to  the  publisher — he  earned  by  those  twelve  books  fully 
twenty  times  the  amount  of  money  he  had  covenanted  to 
take  for  them. 

That  said,  it  is  as  well  to  return  to  the  year  1872,  and 
show  how,  his  long  spell  of  absolute  ill-luck  ceasing,  Zola, 
while  still  encountering  much  hostility,  which  presently 
was  to  grow  into  a  furious  storm,  gradually  advanced  along 
the  path  of  success,  assisted  by  literature's  handmaiden, 
journalism,  and  cheered  by  the  friendship  of  some  of  the 
foremost  men  of  letters  of  his  time. 


VI 

THE  PATH  OF  SUCCESS 

1872-1877 

Flaubert  tad  Ms  intimates:  Zola,  Ooncourt,  Tourgeneflf,  Daudet,  and  Mau- 
passant — 4<  Th&te*  Raquin  "  m  a  play  —  * '  Le  Ventre  de  Paris  "  and  the 
wsasitiv®  critics —  A  first  charge  of  plagiarism  —  The  "Binners  of  the 
Hiw»d  Authors  **  —  Zola,  and  good  fare  —  Sunday  gatherings  at  Flaubert's 

—  **  La  Conqute  de  Piassans  **  —  *e  Lea  H^ritiers  Kabourdin  "  —  Zola  in 
the  Bo©  St.  Georges — His  contributions  to  a  Russian  review — **La 
Faote  de  FAbW  Mouret "  —  " Nouveaux  Contes  a  Ninon"— "Son  Ex- 
<»IIence  Engine  Rougon"  —  The  truth  about  "back-stairs  gossip"  — 
Flaubert's  mimicry  of  Napoleon  III  —  Zola,  Daudet,  and  "  personalities" 
in  fiction  —  Zola  "  s®m  mice  and  birds  **  —  His  stay  at  St.  Anbin-sur-Mer 

—  He  plans  "  L'Assonwnoir  "  —  Publication  of  t4  Son  Excellence  "  —  Dra- 
iwttKS  cxitMsin  for  "Le  Bien  Public^ — Zola's  income  early  in  1876  — 
Serial  iwoe  of  "  L'Assojmiiioir"  — The  outcry  and  the  cessation  of  publi- 
cation—  OatuBe  Mend^s  to  tit©  rescue —  "L'Assotnrnoir"  as  a  book  — 
Its  large  sales — A  furious   controversy — Articles,  pamphlets,  poems, 
pwodies»  awl  lectures — Ttte  years  of  "L*Assc«nmoir**  a  date  in  French 
lAt«mtiire  —  Other  writings  of  the  time  —  Zola's  "band/*  Alexis,  Huys- 
mans,  Manpassant,  Ceard,  and  Hennlqne  —  Flaubert,   "  I/ Assommoir " 
aad   "Naturalism"  —  Zola*a   hammer,  journalism — Self-assertion    and 
pnshfnlness  the  weapons  of  the  age. 

AITER  tJie  Franco-German  War,  Gustave  Flaubert,  wlio  dur- 
ing fifteen  years  of  the  imperial  r&gime  Md  resided,  when  in 
Paris,  on  the  Boulevard  du  Temple,  found  a  gied-h-terre  in 
the  Bue  Murillo,  near  the  Fare  Monceau,  thereby  becoming 
one  of  Zola's  neighbours,  for  the  Eue  Murillo  is  only  a  few 
minutes'  walk  from  the  Eue  de  La  Condamine,  Zola  fre- 
quently called  on  Flaubert,  whom  he  at  first  found  very 
downcast,  for  the  fall  of  the  Empire  seemed  to  him  the  end 
of  the  world,  and  besides,  he  had  not  yet  recovered  from  the 
failure  of  his  book,  "  L'Education  sentimentale,"  published 
in  1869.  It  was  at  Flaubert's  that  Zola  again  met  Edmond 


fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER       141 

de  Goncourt,  who  was  still  mourning  his  brother,  and  feeling 
so  discouraged  that  he  hardly  dared  to  take  pen  in  hand. 
With  Zola  and  Goncourt  came  Flaubert's  young  disciple, 
Guy  de  Maupassant,  at  that  moment  little  more  than  one- 
and-twenty,  then  Ivan  Tourgeneff  and  Alphonse  Daudet, 
whom.  Zola  had  already  met  in  the  days  of  **  L'Ev&iement,** 
these  five  being  for  a  time  the  only  intimates  of  the  author 
of  "Madame  Bovary."  They  were  not  a  very  gay  party,  it 
would  seem.  One  Shrove  Sunday,  says  Zola,  while  the  car- 
nival horns  were  resounding  in  the  streets,  he  sat  till  night- 
fall listening  to  Goncourt  and  Flaubert,  who  for  hours  did 
not  cease  recalling  the  past  and  lamenting  its  disappearance.1 
Goncourt,  on  his  side,  receiving  Zola  about  this  time  (June, 
1872),  once  more  found  him  sickly  and  neurotic,  complain- 
ing confusedly  of  rheumatism,  heart  and  bladder  trouble, 
and  mastered  by  such  acute  nervous  trembling  that  he  had 
to  employ  both  hands  to  carry  his  glass  to  his  lips.2 

At  that  date  Zola  was  planning  a  novel  on  the  Paris 
markets  —  "Le  Ventre  de  Paris"  —  and  dramatising  his 
earlier  book,  "Th&fese  Eaquin,"  working,  so  he  told  Gon- 
court, some  nine  hours  and  a  half  every  day.  When  his 
play  was  finished  he  offered  it  to  M.  Hostein,  the  director  of 
a  new  Parisian  theatre,  La  Renaissance,  and  after  numerous 
alterations  had  been  effected,  its  five  acts  being  reduced  to 
four,  it  was  staged  and  produced  on  July  11, 1873,  when  it 
met  with  a  curious  reception.  The  more  frivolous,  the 
"society"  section  of  the  audience,  could  not  endure  such 
tragic  sombreness,  and  Francisque  Sarcey,  who  held  that  the 
stage  only  existed  for  the  amusement  of  the  public,  declared 

1  Zola's  "  Documents  Litteraires,"  p.  178, 
a  *'  Journal  des  Gtoncourt,"  VoL  IV,  p.  44. 


142  ZOLA,  NQYELIST  AND  REFORMER 

that  "fchia  mm  Zola1*  made  him  feel  "  quite  ill1*  If,  how- 
ever, there  was  some  hissing  at  the  first  performance  of 
"Thfofcee  Raqmn,n  there  was  also  some  applause,  and 
when  the  curtain  fell  the  question  of  success  or  failure 
seemed  still  to  be  hanging  in  the  balance.  But  the  profes- 
sional critics  agreed  to  slate  the  play,  and  moreover  the 
€*  dog-days  "  were  just  beginning,  the  heat  emptying  even 
those  theatres  which  had  hitherto  drawn  large  audiences,  in 
such  wise  that  after  nine  performances  La  Renaissance 
closed  its  doors  for  the  summer  vacation,  aad  "Th£r&se 
Baqtun,"  as  a  play,  was  heard  of  no  more. 

Zola  consoled  himself  with  the  comparative  success  of  his 
novel, u  Le  Ventre  de  Paris," l  which  reached  a  second  edition 
deservedly,  for  its  kaMdoscopic  pictures  of  the  Paris  mar- 
kets were  the  best  descriptive  work  that  the  author  had 
as  yet  penned*  Nevertheless,  the  book  encountered  some 
sevesre  criticism  at  the  hands  of  the  few  reviewers  who  con- 
descended  to  notice  it.  "Writers  devoid  of  any  Rabelaisian 
sense  denounced  it  as  the  apotheosis  of  gluttony ;  the  trans- 
ference of  a  pork-butchers  shop  to  literature  was  regarded 
as  outrageous ;  and  a  certain  u  symphony  of  cheeses  *  gave 
one  critic  such  a  fit  of  nausea,  that  an  unsuspecting  foreigner 
reading  his  remarks  might  have  imagined  cheese  to  be  an 
abomination  to  the  delicately  constituted  Parisians,  whereas, 
in  fact,  they  then  consumed — and  still  consume  to-day  —  a 
greater  amount  and  a  greater  variety  of  cheese,  often  with 

1  ^Le  Ventre  de  Paris,**  Paris,  Gharpentier,  1873,  2  editions,  18mo,  362 
pages;  Set  edition,  1876,  18mo,  358  pages.  From  this  point  all  the  volumes 
of  the  ordinary  edition  of  "  Les  Eougon-Macquarlj"  were  priced  at  3  francs  50 
centimes.  Tbe  forty-seventh  thousand  of  "  Le  Ventre  de  Paris  "  (Charpen- 
tier  edition}  was  on  sale  in  1903.  There  is  also  an  edition  illustrated  with 
wood  eagravJEgs,  Paris,  Plananarlon,  n*  d.  laige  8va 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     143 

the  strangest  flavours  and  odours,  than  any  other  community 
in  the  world. 

But,  apropos  of  this  same  '*  symphony,"  a  Parnassian  poet, 
—  one  who  was  then  regarded  as  a  neo-Grecian,  neither  more 
nor  less,  —  M.  Anatole  France,  pointed  out  rightly  enough 
that  the  imagery  in  which  Zola  indulged  was  inconsistent 
with  his  claim  already  put  forward,  though  not  definitely 
enunciated,  to  be  a  realistic  writer.  **  Such  vain,  empty,  and 
detestable  virtuosi^"  had  no  place,  said  M.  France,  in  the 
realist  system ;  and  indeed,  taking  that  system  as  it  was  de- 
fined by  Zola  under  the  name  of  naturalism  a  little  later,  M. 
France  was  assuredly  correct  As  a  matter  of  fact  the 
duality  of  Zola's  nature  was  always  appearing.  He  was  for 
ever  straying  beyond  the  limits  of  the  doctrines  he  pro- 
pounded, having  quaffed  too  deeply  of  Hugo's  rhetoric  in  his 
youth  to  be  able  to  restrain  himself.  And  it  was  as  well, 
perhaps,  to  show  that  even  at  this  early  stage  of  his  great 
series,  his  vagaries,  his  deviations  from  his  self-chosen 
principles,  already  attracted  attention. 

It  was  also  apropos  of  this  same  "  Ventre  de  Paris/'  that 
the  first  of  many  charges  of  plagiarism  was  preferred  against 
Zola.  In  this  instance  it  was  M,  Nadar,  photographer, 
aeronaut,  caricaturist,  and  author,  who  declared  that  "  the 
colour  scale  "  of  the  sea  of  vegetables  which  Zola  showed 
spreading  around  the  Paris  markets  had  been  borrowed 
from  something  which  he,  Nadar,  had  written.  But  Zola 
had  merely  expanded  a  passage  of  one  of  his  own  early 
articles;  and  the  suggestion  of  plagiarism  was  the  more 
ridiculous  as  the  first  thing  which  strikes  anybody,  even 
with  only  a  little  artistic  perception,  when  witnessing  day- 
break at  the  Paris  markets,  is  the  diversity  of  the  picture's 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

hues,  the  great  medley  of  colour  gradually  accentuated  by 
the  light  of  the  rising  sun.  M*  Nadar  probably  realised 
that  Ms  wntatttaon  could  not  be  regarded  seriously.  At  all 
events  the  matter  dropped,  and  Zola  turned  to  Ms  next 
volume,  *  La  Conqufete  de  Plassans,"  as  weU  as  to  a  new 
play,  a  three-act  comedy,  which  he  entitled  "  Les  H&itiers 
B&bourdin^ 

Meantime,  it  had  occurred  to  Flaubert  to  unite  his 
intimates  in  a  monthly  dinner,  which,  said  he,  might  be 
called  **the  Dinner  of  the  Hissed  Authors,"  He  himself 
had  been  hissed  for  his  pky,  "Le  Candidat,"  Zola  had 
encountered  a  similar  experience  with  "Th&fese  Raquin," 
Alphonse  Daudet  with  *  L'AriMenne,"  and  Edmond  de 
Goncottrt  with  "  Henrietta  Mwr^chaL**  Tourgeneff,  also,  was 
admitted  to  tibia  company  on  the  strength  of  his  asser- 
tion that  he  had  been  hissed  in  Russia ;  but,  according  to 
Daudet,  when  Emfte  de  Giraxdin,  hearing  of  the  project, 
wished  to  join  the  others — pleading,  no  doubt,  the  recep- 
tion given  to  the  notorious  a  Supplice  d'une  Femme  "  —  they 
promptly  blackballed  him  on  the  ground  that  he  was  not 
a  imratew.1 

Thanks  to  the  wine  provided  at  those  monthly  dinners, 
they  were  livelier,  though  perhaps  not  more  interesting, 
than  the  Sunday  meetings  in  Flaubert's  rooms.  They  took 
place  at  various  restaurants,  the  first  at  the  Caf£  Eiche, 
on  April  14, 18742  Then,  as  Flaubert  was  starting  for  Le 
Croisset,  near  Eouen,  the  next  was  adjourned  till  the  winter 

1  Alplionse  Baudot's  "Trenteans  de  Paris,"  1888.  There  are  numerous 
discrepancies  in  the  accounts  which.  Daudet,  Zola,  and  Goncourt  have  left  of 
some  of  these  dinners ;  but  the  author  has  endeavoured  to  give  a  general  idea 
of  them. 

3  "Journal  des  Gonoourt,"  Yol.  V,  p.  17S. 


Photo  by  Nadar 


fimile  Zola,    1876-1880 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       145 

months.  As  Zola  tells  us,  during  the  years  over  which 
these  dinners  were  spread,  the  choice  of  a  restaurant  for 
the  next  repast  invariably  led  to  great  discussion  among 
the  five  convives.  Anxious  apparently  to  sample  every 
kind  of  cuisine,  they  went  from  the  Cafd  Riche  to  Voisin's 
in  the  Rue  St.  Honor4 ;  from  Voisin's  to  Adolphe  and  Pel#s 
near  the  Grand  Opera  House,  and  thence  to  the  Byron 
on  the  Place  de  TOp^ra  Comique.  They  feasted  now  on 
TxwillabaisBe,  now  on  poulet  aw  kari.  Tourgeneff  naturally 
required  caviar  to  whet  his  appetite ;  Flaubert  always  in- 
sisted on  having  Normandy  butter,  and  revelled  in  Rouen 
ducklings  &  FUouffade ;  while  Goncourt  evinced  a  depraved 
taste  for  preserved  ginger.  As  for  Zola,  he,  according  to 
Alphonse  Daudet,  was  addicted  to  shellfish  and  sea-urchins  j 
His  friends  occasionally  twitted  him  respecting  the  par- 
tiality he  began  to  evince  for  good  fare,  —  which  cast,  they 
said,  a  lurid  light  on  his  novel,  "Le  Ventre  de  Paris'*  — 
and  he  frankly  acknowledged  his  gourmandise3  pleading, 
however,  that  it  was  his  only  vice,  and  that  he  had  gone 
hungry  so  many  years! 

Of  course  there  was  no  ceremony  at  those  monthly  dinners. 
Flaubert  and  Zola  often  took  off  their  coats  and  sat  down 
at  table  "in  their  shirt-sleeves,"  as  the  phrase  goes,  while 
between  the  courses  Tourgeneff  would  sprawl  on  a  sofa. 
And  directly  the  coffee  was  served  the  waiters  were  turned 
out  of  the  room,  and  a  long  discussion  on  literary  subjects 
began,  that  is  when  it  had  not  been  started  already  at  the 
outset  of  the  repast  "  I  remember,"  wrote  Zola,  in  his  recol- 
lections of  Flaubert,1  "a  terrible  discussion  on  Chateau- 
briand, which  lasted  from  seven  in  the  evening  till  one 

1  Zola's  "  Les  Romaaciers  Natuialistes,"  p.  181* 
10 


146    tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

o'clock  in  the  morning.   flaubert  and  Daudet  defended  him, 

Tourgeneff  and  I  attacks!  Mm,  while  Gkmconrt  remained 
nenteaL  At  other  times  we  took  np  the  subject  of  the  pas- 
sions, talked  of  women  and  love,  and  on  those  occasions  the 
waiters  looked  at  us  aghast  Then,  as  Flaubert  detested 
haying  to  walk  home  alone,  I  accompanied  him  through  the 
dark  streets,  and  did  not  get  to  bed  till  three  o'clock  in  the 
morning,  for  we  halted  at  the  corner  of  every  open  space  to 
philosophise." 

Meantime  the  Sunday  gatherings  at  Flaubert's  had  become 
far  less  gloomy.  The  author  of  "Madame  Bovary"  had 
gradually  accustomed  himself  to  the  new  order  of  things, 
and  when  he  removed  from  the  Rue  Murillo  to  the  Fau- 
bourg St.  Hotter^,  a  number  of  admirers  surrounded  him,  as 
well  as  his  half-dozen  chosen  intimatea1  On  some  occar 
sions  as  many  as  twenty  visitors  assembled  in  his  half- 
furnished  white  and  gold  drawing-room,  which  from  three 
till  six  o'clock  became  full  of  tobacco-smoke,  everybody 
except  Zola  freely  indulging  in  pipe,  cigar,  or  cigarette.  He 
had  ceased  smoking  under  compulsion,  in  his  days  of  dire 
necessity,  and  though  no  such  compulsion  existed  now,  even 
Flaubert  seldom  succeeded  in  forcing  a  pipe  upon  him. 

In  his  account  of  those  Sunday  gatherings,  he  allows  us 
to  understand  that  the  speech  often  suggested  the  style  of 
Eabelais,  perhaps  even  of  Villon,  that  spades  were  called 
plumply  spades,  which  will  not  surprise  those  who  know 
the  Cambronnesc[ue  epithet  that  Flaubert — the  stylist  — 

1  JUexis  mentions  among  the  frequent  yisitors  whom  he  met  there :  Fran- 
90k  Copped,  Catulle  Mended,  Maurice  Boucher,  Philippe  Burty,  J.  K.  Hnys- 
mans,  Hemi  Ce*ard,  Marios  Beta,  L^on  Hennique,  Bergerat,  Toudouze*  Dr. 
Pouchet,  and  Charpentier,  the  publisher.  At  internals  came  Taine,  Renan, 
Maximo  Ihicamp,  and  Maurice  Sand. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE       147 

applied  to  Ms  own  work,  **  Madame  Bovary,"  in  his  anger 
and  weariness  at  being  incessantly  complimented  on  it. 
For  the  rest,  Zola  tells  ns  that  the  company  "  rattled  through 
every  subject,  always  reverting  to  literature,  to  the  book  or 
the  play  of  the  hour,  or  to  some  general  question  or  venture- 
some theory ;  but,  at  the  same  time,  excursions  were  made 
into  every  field,  and  neither  men  nor  things  were  spared. 
Flaubert  thundered,  Tourgeneff  told  stories  of  exquisite 
originality  and  savour,  Goncourt  pronounced  judgment  on 
one  matter  and  another  with  all  his  shrewdness  and  per- 
sonal style  of  phraseology.  Then  Daudet  acted  his  anecdotes 
in  that  charming  manner  of  his,  which  made  him  the  best 
of  companions ;  while  as  for  myself  I  did  not  shine  at  all, 
for  I  am  a  very  poor  conversationalist,  and  only  worth  any- 
thing when  I  feel  a  deep  conviction  on  some  subject,  and 
fly  into  a  passion." 

To  some  of  the  aforementioned  gatherings  and  dinners 
it  will  be  necessary  to  refer  again  in  the  course  of  this 
narrative.  What  has  been  set  down  here  will,  however, 
indicate  the  nature  of  the  companionship  which  came  to 
Zola  as  he  toiled  along  the  path  leading  to  success.  He  had 
not  shaken  off  his  old  friends,  he  still  gave  his  weekly 
dinners  which  one  or  another  —  Alexis,  Marius  Roux,  Coste, 
Duranty,  and  B£Uard,  the  painter,  —  attended,  though  some 
began  to  fall  out  of  the  ranks,  carried  hither  and  thither 
by  their  private  interests.  Meantime,  he  worked  very 
zealously.  In  1874,  he  completed  his  story,  "  La  Conqu§te 
de  Plassans,"  —  the  fourth  volume  of  the  Rougon-Macquart 
series  — and  ran  it  through  "  Le  S&cle  "  as  a  serial  When 
it  was  published,  soon  afterwards,  in  volume  form  by 
Oharpentier,  there  was  a  sufficient  demand  to  justify  the 


148       IMBUE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMER 

printing  of  a  second  edition  of  this  tale  of  priestly  intrigue 
in  public  and  prorate  lifa1 

But  Zola's  eyes  were  still  turned  towards  the  stage, 
partly  because  he  desired  to  apply  certain  theories  to  play- 
writing,  and  partly  because  he  knew  that  the  successful 
dramatist  advanced  far  more  rapidly  than  the  successful 
novelist  along  the  path  to  fortune.  Thus,  having  finished 
Ms  three-act  comedy,  "Les  H^ritiers  Kabourdin/*'2  in  which 
the  gruesome  was  mingled  with  the  farcical,  he  offered  it  to 
the  Palais  Eoyal  Theatre.  But  the  manager  of  that  house 
only  cared  for  amusing  plays  free  from  all  lugubrious  taint, 
his  chief  author  being  Labiche,  whose  name  was  synony- 
mous with  unadulterated  merriment ;  so  Zola  soon  carried  his 
manuscript  to  M.  Montjgny  of  the  Gymnase.  Writing  on 
July  23, 1874,  to  Ms  friend  and  publisher,  M.  Charpentier,  he 
gave  the  following  account  of  the  issue  of  his  endeavours :  — 

aMy  negotiations  with  Moniagny  have  fallen  through.  He 
haaded  me  book  my  manuscript  in  the  most  charming  manner, 
vowing  that  he  had  a  keen  desire  to  stage  a  play  of  mine.  He 
eren  gare  me  my  mtrees  to  the  Gymnase,  by  way  of  consolation, 
no  doubt.  Briefly,  my  play  frightened  him,  but  it  is  certain  that 
he  long  hesitated  about  it,  and  that  the  doors  of  his  theatre  will 
be  open  to  me  if  I  only  undertake  *  to  be  good/  As  soon  as  my 
manuscript  was  returned  to  me  I  was  eager  to  carry  it  elsewhere. 
Decidedly,  it  is  a  disease ;  one  wants  to  be  4  played/  whatever 
may  be  the  chances.  The  only  thing  left  for  me  to  do  was  to 
knock  at  the  door  of  the  Theatre  de  Cluny.  I  went  there. 
And,  yesterday,  Weinschenk  [the  manager]  accepted  my  play. 
It  will  pass  before  Flaubert's,*  about  the  middle  of  September, 

1  "La  Oonqti$te  de  Plassans/*  1st  and  2d  editions:  Paris,  Charpentier, 
1874,  18mo,  406  pages ;  3d  edition,  1876,  402  pages ,"   thirty-fourth  thou- 
sand on  sale  in  1003. 

2  See  ante,  p.  144. 

8  TMi  was  a  play  called  "  Le  Sexe  Faible,Jr  which  Flaubert  had  agreed  to 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       149 

heaven  knows  under  what  conditions,  for  the  company  frightens 
me  terribly.  But  what  would  you  have  had  me  do  I  I  had  no 
alternative,  I  had  to  go  to  that  galley  to  ensure  myself  some 
little  peace  of  mind.  It  would  have  rendered  me  so  unhappy  to 
have  left  the  manuscript  lying  in  a  drawer.13 

The  Theatre  de  Cluny  was  then  a  third  or  fourth  rate 
little  house  in  the  Quartier  Latin,  and  Zola's  fears  respecting 
its  company  were  fully  justified.  To  give  an  idea  of  the 
fate  which  befell  his  play  it  will  be  enough  to  mention  that 
one  of  the  "  parts,"  that  of  Chapuzot,  an  octogenarian,  was 
confided  to  a  young  fellow  named  Olona,  who  in  his  efforts 
to  imitate  an  old  man's  voice  ended  by  speaking  like  a 
"Punch."  Nevertheless,  there  was  no  hissing  at  the  first 
performance  which  was  delayed  until  the  3d  of  November 
(1874);  the  demeanour  of  the  audience  being  rather  one 
of  bewilderment,  particularly  when  in  the  third  act  illness 
and  death  suddenly  intruded  into  the  midst  of  farce.  But 
the  critics  did  not  hesitate.  They  damned  the  play  even  as 
they  had  damned  "Th&&se  Kaquin,"  "Le  Figaro"  curtly 
declaring  that  it  was  repulsive,  tiresome,  and  immoral; 
and  after  seventeen  performances,  given  to  well-nigh  empty 
houses,  except  on  Sundays  When  the  shopkeepers  and 
working-people  of  the  district  attended  and  laughed  good- 
naturedly,  1  "  Les  H^ritiers  Eabourdin "  disappeared  from 
the  stage  without  hope  of  revival. 

But  this  was  not  Zola's  only  work  during  the  year  1874 
He  had  now  moved  from  the  Rue  de  La  Condamine  to 
21,  Rue  St.  Georges  (now  Rue  des  Apennins)  at  Batignolles. 

supply  to  the  The&tre  de  Cluny,  but  before  doing  so  he  read  it  to  his 
intimates,  who  gave  it  so  unfavourable  a  reception  that  he  renounced  all  idea 
of  having  it  performed. 
1  Alexis,  L  c,,  p.  139. 


150       •ftMTTjR  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEEOEMER 

Hero  again,  unlike  most  Parisians,  who  live  in  flats,  lie  had 
a  house  to  himself,  with  a  garden,  both  considerably  larger 
than  the  previous  ones.  In  the  Eue  de  La  Condamine  he 
himself  had  attended  to  his  garden,  made  a  kennel  for  his 
dog,  erected  his  own  fowl  and  rabbit  houses  —  for  he  was 
sMlful  with  his  hands —  just  like  any  other  modestly  cir- 
cumstanced dweller  in  Suburbia.  But  in  the  Eue  St. 
Geoiges  his  prosperity  increased,  and  instead  of  employing 
a  mere  fm,me-de-mlnage  to  help  his  wife  in  the  housework, 
he  was  soon  able  to  engage  two  servants,  man  and  wife. 

His  increased  prosperity  was  due  to  the  good  offices  of 
his  friend,  Ivan  Tourgeneff,  who  took  no  little  interest  in 
him.  At  this  time  Zola  no  longer  wrote  political  articles 
for  the  Paris  press,  for  editors  deemed  his  pen  too  violent ; 
and  as  he  also  carried  revolutionary  methods  into  literary 
discussion,  he  was  unable  to  find  in  France  any  satisfactory 
outlet  either  for  certain  critical  studies  on  eminent  writers 
which  he  had  often  thought  of  undertaking,  or  for  any 
adequate  expression  of  his  theories  respecting  fiction.  In 
these  circumstances  Tourgeneff  recommended  him  to  a  St. 
Petersburg  review,  the  "  Viestnik  Yevropi,"  otherwise  "  The 
European  Messenger."  To  this  periodical  Zola  became  a 
regular  and  well-paid  contributor  for  several  years.  The 
essays  and  short  stories  which  he  wrote  for  it  were  natu- 
rally translated  into  Eussian,  in  which  language  they  be- 
came known  long  before  the  French  text  was  printed. 

It  was  also  this  Eussian  review  that  first  issued  "La 
Faute  de  FAbb4  Mouret/*  the  fifth  instalment  of  the 
"Eougon-Macquarts"  and  one  of  the  most  romantic  of  all 
Zola's  novels.  He  wrote  it  in  the  Eue  St.  Georges  in  the 
summer  of  1874,  after  arranging  for  the  publication  in 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     151 

book  form  of  ten  short  stories  which  he  had  contributed 
during  recent  years  to  newspapers,  almanacs,  and  other 
periodicals.  The  little  volume  was  called  "Nouveaiix 
Contes  h  Ninon,n  and  the  reception  given  to  it  by  both  the 
critics  and  the  public  was  distinctly  encouraging.1  The 
former,  however,  cold-shouldered  "La  Faute  de  FAbb4 
Mouret,"  which  was  published  by  Charpentier  in  1875, 
though  this  was  the  first  of  Zola's  novels  that  reached,  not 
a  great  sale  certainly,  but  one  which  may  fairly  be  called 
considerable  for  that  period.  In  1876  a  sixth  edition  of  it 
was  reached,  followed  by  another  in  the  ensuing  year.1 

When  "  Abb4  Mouret "  was  placed  on  the  market,  Zola, 
who  seldom  if  ever  rested,  was  already  working  on  his  next 
book,  "  Son  Excellence  Eugfene  Eougon,"  in  which  he  dealt 
with  the  political  side  of  the  Second  Empire  and  sketched 
the  life  of  the  Imperial  Court  at  Compi&gne.  Some  years 
previously,  in  1865,  when  he  was  writing  for  "LTEv&ae- 
ment,"  that  journal  had  published  a  series  of  articles 
signed  "D,"  chronicling  the  imperial  sojourn  at  Com- 
pi&gne ;  and  these  had  been  collected  in  a  volume  to  which 
the  fanciful  subtitle  of  "  Confidences  d'un  Valet  de  Cham- 
bre"8  was  given,  though,  in  point  of  fact,  the  author  was 

1  "Nouveaux  Contes  &  Ninon,"  1st  and  2d  editions,  Paris,  Charpentier, 
1874, 18mo,  311  pages,  3d  edition,  1877  ;  new  editions  containing  the  Roiagon- 
Macquart  genealogical  tree,  in  1878  and  1881  ,*  new  edition,  including  14  tales 
and  sketches,  in  1885  et  seq.  ;  ditto,  32mo,  with  2  etchings,  1885  ;   Con- 
quet* s  edition,  etched  frontispiece  and  30  vignettes,  2  vols.,  sm.  8ro,  1886. 

2  "LaFante  del'Abbe'    Monret,"  1st,  2d,  3d,  and  4th  editions,  Paris, 
Charpentier,   1875,  18mo,   432  pages  ;  5th  and  6th  editions,   1876 ;  7th, 
428  pages,  1877  ;  fifty-second  thousand  on  sale  in  1$03.    Of  kte  years  eighty 
thousand  copies  have  been  sold  of  an  illustrated  edition  in  the  "  Collection 
Guillaume." 

8  "La  Cour  a  Compiegne,  Confidences  d'un  Valet  de  Chambre,"  Paris, 
Likairie  du  Petit  Journal,  1866.  18mo,  303  pages.  In  E.  A.  Vizetelly's  in- 


152      &MILB  ZOLJL,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

simply  a  journalist,  recommended  by  Th^ophile  Gautier  for 
the  express  purpose  of  reporting  the  doings  of  the  court 
during  its  mUeffmtura>  and  in  that  way  refuting  the  thou- 
sand rumours  of  indescribable  orgies  at  Compi&gne,  which 
circulated  among  the  more  credulous  Parisians.  From  the 
record  in  question,  a  very  accurate  one,  Zola,  who,  of  course 
had  never  been  a  guest  at  Compi&gne,  derived  considerable 
information,  but  sundry  critics,  unacquainted  with  the 
tenth,  twitted  him  for  having  placed  reliance  on  back-stairs 
gossip,  when  in  reality  he  had  taken  as  his  guide  statements 
issued  with  the  Emperor's  express  approval. 

But  further  information  was  given  him  by  Flaubert,  who 
had  visited  Compifegne  more  than  once  as  a  court  guest. 
And  Goncourt  tells  us  that  Flaubert,  when  questioned  by 
Zola,  proceeded  to  mimic  the  kte  sovereign  in  characteristic 
fwMon,  walking  up  and  down  with  his  figure  bent,  resting 
one  hand  on  Ms  back,  and  twirling  his  moustache  with  the 
other,  while  mumbling  idiotic  remarks.  "Napoleon  III," 
added  Flaubert,  by  way  of  comment,  "was  unadulter- 
ated stupidity";  to  which  proposition  Goncourt  retorted, 
wittily  and  with  great  truth,  that  stupidity  was  usually 
loquacious,  whereas  the  Emperor's  had  been  silent  stupidity. 
**It  was  that  which  made  his  strength,  it  allowed  one  to 
suppose  everything." 1  No  better  judgment  than  this  was 
ever  passed  on  Napoleon  III.  For  twenty  years  the  world 
regarded  him  as  "deep,"  though,  in  reality,  he  was  in 
many  respects  a  fool,  one  who  would  never  even  have 

twxinetion  to  the  English  yersion  of  **  Son  Excellence  Eugene  Rongon  "  ( "  His 
IbcceBeBcy,"  London,  Cnatto,  and  !N"ew  York,  Macmillan,  1897  d  seq.)t  it  is 
stated  in  error  that  the  articles  first  appealed  in  "Le  Figaro/'  whereas  it  was 
the  latter*®  companion-print,  **  L^venement,"  which  issued  them, 
i  « JotumL  dtes  Gonconrt,"  YoL  Y,  p.  100  (March  7, 1875), 


tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       153 

reigned  over  France  had  it  not  been  for  the  energy  and 
acumen  of  his  bastard  half-brother,  the  Duke  de  Horny. 

Apropos  of  the  latter,  Goncourt  mentions  that  one  day 
when  Alphonse  Daudet,  who  had  been  in  the  Duke's  em- 
ployment, was  giving  various  particulars  about  him,  Zola 
expressed  a  keen  regret  that  he  had  not  possessed  this 
information  in  time  to  use  it  in  w  Son  Excellence,**  which  con- 
tains but  a  very  imperfect  sketch  of  Horny  under  the  name 
of  Marsy.  In  a  discussion  which  ensued,  Zola  evinced  great 
eagerness  to  put  everything  into  his  books  —  that  is  every- 
thing he  learnt  which  might  be  germane  to  his  subjects  and 
likely  to  cast  light  upon  them.  On  the  whole,  however, 
he  was  far  less  "personal"  than  Daudet.  Both  in  "Son 
Excellence  Eug&ne  Eougon  "  and  in  his  later  novel,  "  Paris,** 
although  many  of  the  characters  suggested  well-known 
people,  almost  every  one  of  them  was  a  blend,  so  to  say,  of 
three  or  four  originals,  whereas  Daudet,  sketching  his 
characters  from  the  life,  often  modified  them  so  little  that 
those  who  knew  their  Paris  could  not  regard  some  of  his 
books  otherwise  than  as  pillories. 

The  writing  of  "  Son  Excellence  Eugene  Eougon  "  proved 
a  somewhat  laborious  task  for  Zola,  the  period  selected  for  the 
story  being  largely  antecedent  to  his  participation  in  news- 
paper life,  from  which  he  had  learnt  so  much  both  politically 
and  socially.  And  his  desire  to  be  scrupulously  accurate  in 
all  essential  particulars  led  him  to  undertake  a  variety  of 
fatiguing  researches.  Hard  work,  indeed  excessive  work, 
for  he  wrote  regularly  for  the  Kussian  review,  and  penned 
some  Parisian  correspondence  every  day  for  "Le  Semaphore" 
of  Marseilles,  besides  proceeding  with  his  novel,  again  re- 
duced him  to  a  nervous  condition,  and  one  day,  when  he 


154  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

w&s  with  Gcmeourt  and  others,  he  complained  that  while  he 
wrote  he  often  fancied  he  could  see  mice  scampering  about 
Mm,  or  birds  flying  away  on  one  hand  or  the  other.  That 
spring  (1875)  others  also  felt  "  run  down/'  as  the  saying 
goes.  Tourgeneff,  for  instance,  complained  of  his  nerves, 
aad  Flaubert  was  haunted  by  the  idea  that  there  was  always 
somebody  behind  him  while  he  worked.1 

At  last,  when  the  summer  came  and  his  book  was  finished, 
Zola  resolved  to  seek  a  change,  though  not  absolute  rest,  for 
idleness  was  repugnant  to  him*  His  circumstances  had 
now  greatly  improved;  M.  Charpentier  had  torn  up  the 
original  agreement  for  the  Eougon-Macquart  series,  and 
opened  has  cash-box,  and  Zola  had  at  last  liquidated  the 
liabilities  which  he  had  incurred  by  the  failure  of  Lacroix. 
So,  with  his  wife  and  mother,  he  betook  himself  to  a  little 
Norman  watering-place,  Si  Aubin-sur-Mer,  lying  between 
the  mouth  of  the  Ome  and  the  Calvados  rocks,  and  reached, 
in  those  days,  by  coach  from  Caen. 

It  was  the*e,  as  Alexis  relates,  that  he  planned  his  next 
book,  "L'Assommoir,"  the  idea  of  which  had  occurred  to  him 
before  his  departure  from  Paris.  In  Ms  previous  volumes 
he  had  dealt  with  the  Imperial  Court,  the  Parisian  society, 
the  political  world,  the  provincial  life,  the  clerical  intrigues 
of  the  Second  Empire,  and  it  was  only  in  "  Le  Ventre  de 
Paris  "  that  he  had  cast  some  side-lights  upon  the  working 
class  of  the  capital.  They,  however,  deserved  an  entire 
volume  to  themselves,  and  Zola  felt  that  he  could  write  one, 
based  largely  on  his  own  personal  knowledge  of  their  habits 
and  customs ;  for  in  his  days  of  poverty  he  had  dwelt  among 
them  at  Montrouge,  and  in  the  Eue  St  Jacques,  and  again 
i  "  Journal  to  Goaccmrt,"  ToL  Y,  p.  202  (April  25, 1875), 


£lIILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       155 

on  the  Boulevard  H  ontparnasse.  Besides  what  he  had  writ- 
ten about  them  in  a  few  newspaper  articles  or  short  stories, 
such  as  **Le  Chomage,"  "Hon  voisin  Jacques"  and  wLe 
Forgeron," l  which  will  be  found  in  the  "  Nouveaux  Contes  k 
Ninon,"  he  remembered  a  great  many  things,  funerals,  fes- 
tivities, and  junketings.  He  had  discovered,  too,  a  suitable 
title  —  "  L'Assommoir  "  —  in  Alfred  Delvau's  slang  diction- 
ary, and  it  was  this  circumstance  which,  when  he  had  written 
two  chapters  of  the  book  in  his  usual  style,  suddenly  in- 
spired him  with  the  idea  of  penning  it  in  the  real  vernacular 
of  the  Parisian  masses,  not  the  special  slang  of  thieves  and 
prostitutes,  such  as  Eugfcne  Sue  had  employed,  and,  in  part> 
invented,  in  "Les  Mystferes  de  Paris,"  but  in  the  current 
langage  populaire,  understood  by  everybody.2 

It  was  during  Zola's  stay  at  St.  Aubin,  face  to  face  with 
the  sea,  —  whose  influence  was  not  lost  upon  him  for,  as 
will  be  shown,  it  suggested  in  part  a  later  work,  "La  Joie  de 
Vivre,"  —  that  he  mapped  out  this  book  on  the  Parisian  pro- 
Utaire,  which  was  to  raise  him  to  fame ;  and  Alexis  tells  us 
that  though  he  already  had  the  chief  scenes  of  the  story  in 
his  mind  he  was  for  a  time  at  a  loss  for  a  suitable  intrigue 
which  would  weld  them  well  together.  The  idea  of  taking 
a  girl  of  the  people,  who  stumbles  and  has  two  children  by 
her  seducer,  then  marries  another  man,  establishes  herself  in 
business  by  dint  of  hard  work,  but  is  borne  down  by  the 
conduct  of  her  husband,  who  becomes  a  drunkard,  had  pre- 
viously occurred  to  him,  figuring,  indeed,  in  the  original 
genealogical  tree  which  he  had  drawn  up  for  hia  series,  but 

1  In  "Le  Foigeron"  one  will  find  the  first  idea  of  Goujet  of  "L'Assom- 
moir  "  ;  while  "  Mon  voisin  Jacques  "  is  the  original  of  Bazouge,  the  mute, 
a  Alexis,  Z.  c.,  p,  109. 


156       &MHJB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

he  felt  that  the  husband's  drunkenness  might  not  fully 
account  for  the  wife's  downfall,  and  he  remained  at  a  loss 
how  to  proceed  until,  all  at  once,  he  was  inspired  to  "bring 
the  woman's  seducer  back  into  her  home.  That  would 
make  everything  possible,  and  he  decided  to  model  his  story 
accordingly. 

He  busied  himself  with  *'  L'Assommoir  "  on  his  return  to 
Paris  in  the  autumn,  and  arranged  for  the  "  serialisation  "  of 
his  completed  novel,  *  Son  Excellence  Eug&ne  Rougon,"  in 
"Le  Si&cle"  early  in  the  following  year,  1876.1  He  was 
then  in  high  spirits.  **  Fortune/'  he  said  to  Edmond  de 
Goncourt, "  was  at  last  finding  its  way  to  his  home."  In- 
deed, a  stroke  of  luck  had  befallen  him,  A  daily  evening 
paper,  *<Le  Bien  Public/*  had  appointed  Mm  its  dramatic 
critic  at  a  salary  of  six  thousand  francs  a  year.  This  journal 
had  been  started  with  the  support  of  Thiers,  since  whose 
resignation  of  the  presidency  of  the  Republic  in  1873  France 
had  been  governed  in  a  reactionary  spirit  by  MacMahon's 
ministers.  During  that  troublous  period  "  Le  Bien  Public," 
whose  connection  with  Thiers  was  well  known,  rendered 
good  service  to  the  Republican  cause,  first  rallying 
many  hesitating  people,  then  becoming  more  and  more 
democratic,  and  helping  on  that  alliance  of  the  middle  class 
and  the  prol&tariat  which  saved  France  from  monarchical 
intrigues  and  resulted  in  MacMahon's  downfall.  Zola  was 
delighted  to  join  the  paper,  particularly  as  it  allowed  him 
all  freedom  in  his  dramatic  criticisms,  which  were  written 
in  his  usual  trenchant  style.  Of  course  he  had  to  give  to 

1  A  little  later  it  was  issued  in  "book  form :  "  Son  Excellence  Eugene 
Boogon,"  Paris,  Cnarpentier,  1876, 18mo,  466  pages.  The  demand  was  smaller 
than  tbat  for  tne  previous  volume,  "  La  Faute  de  TAbbe*  Mouret" ;  and  in 
1903  only  tibe  thirty-sixth  thousand  was  on  sale* 


fiMILB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMEE     157 

them  some  of  the  time  he  had  hitherto  allotted  to  his  books, 
but  he  was  not  afraid  of  additional  work,  particularly  when 
it  was  of  a  nature  to  bring  him  nearer  to  the  Parisian  stage, 
on  which,  in  spite  of  every  rebuff,  he  still  dreamt  of  triumph- 
ing. Moreover,  the  increase  in  his  income  was  very  wel- 
come ;  with  the  salaries  he  received  from  "  Le  Bien  Public  ** 
and  "Le  Semaphore"  —  for  which,  he  still  wrote  —  the  pro- 
ceeds of  his  contributions  to  the  Russian  review,  which 
some  months  amounted  to  eight  hundred  francs,  and  the 
money  accruing  from  his  books,  Hs  income,  in  the  early 
part  of  1876,  before  the  serial  publication  of  "  L'Assommoir," 
represented  quite  twenty-five  thousand  francs,  and  perhaps 
thirty  thousand  francs  a  year.1  But  he  decided  to  offer  his 
new  story  to  "Le  Bien  Public";  and  that  he  could  now 
command  good  terms  is  shown  by  the  fact  that  the  paper 
agreed  to  pay  Mm  ten  thousand  francs  for  the  serial  rights 
without  even  seeing  his  manuscript,  which,  by  the  way,  was 
not  ready,  though  he  had  given  information  respecting  the 
subject  he  meant  to  treat. 

The  serial  issue  began  in  June  (1876)  and  there  was  an 
immediate  outcry.  Whatever  might  be  thought  of  Zola's 
novels  in  book  form,  they  were  not  liked  by  the  news- 
paper readers  of  those  days ;  and,  in  the  case  of  "  L' Assom- 
moir,"  there  were  not  only  complaints  of  immorality,  but 
the  author  was  accused,  ludicrously  enough,  of  slandering 
the  masses,  insulting  the  working  classes.  The  latter  charge 
alarmed  the  director  of  "Le  Bien  Public"  far  more  than 
the  first  did.  Important  political  issues  were  then  at  stake, 
and  it  was  essential  that  the  working-man  should  not  be 
offended !  Of  course  people  judged  the  story  merely  by 

i  From  £1,000  to  £1,200,  or  from  about  $5,000  to  $$,000. 


158  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEE 

the  instalments  as  tibtj  appeared,  and  these  as  yet  gave 
little  indication  of  what  it  would  be  when  completed.  Thus 
a  very  narrow  view  was  taken  by  some  readers,  while  others 
were  more  particularly  horrified  by  the  slang  in  which  the 
work  abounded,  complaining  notably  of  its  appearance,  not 
only  in  the  dialogue  but  in  the  descriptive  and  narrative 
passages,  into  which  Zola  had  introduced  it  with  the  ex- 
press object  of  suggesting  that  this  was  a  story  of  the  masses 
told  by  one  of  themselves.  Briefly,  in  all  respects,  the 
outcry  became  so  great  that  in  July  the  director  of  "Le 
Bien  Public"  decided  to  cease  publication*  Nevertheless, 
the  paper  honestly  paid  Zola  the  full  amount  specified  in 
the  agreement 

At  this  moment  M.  Catixlle  Mend&s  again  came  to  the 
rescue,  and,  for  a  nominal  sum,  a  thousand  francs  or  so, 
Zola  handed  Mia  the  remainder  of  his  manuscript  for  pub- 
lication in  a  La  E4publique  des  Lettres  * ;  then,  leaving  his 
Hterwy  bombshell  to  complete  its  work,  betook  himself  to 
Piriac,  on  the  Breton  coast,  between  Vannes  and  St.  Nazaire, 
for  a  holiday.  In  Paris  the  periodical  edited  by  M.  Mend&s 
suddenly  leaped  into  notoriety.  It  supplied  the  latter  part 
of  " L'Assommoir'*  gratuitously  to  those  subscribers  of  "Le 
Bien  Public  "  who  desired  to  read  it ;  but  at  the  same  time 
its  sales  increased  largely,  for  so  much  was  said  about  this 
extraordinary  story,  so  violent  were  the  attacks  upon  it, 
that  many,  who  as  yet  had  seen  nothing  of  it,  wished  to 
ascertain  its  character  and  form  their  own  opinions. 

Amid  all  the  hubbub,  a  well-known  Parisian  journalist  of 
that  period,  Tony  KMllon,  who  had  catered  for  the  working 
classes  since  the  latter  years  of  the  Empire,  meeting  Paul 
Alexis  one  day  in  the  autumn,  said  to  him :  "  Tell  Zola  to 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEE     159 

make  Ms  mind  easy.    His  book  will  sell  like  hot  cakea  „  .  , 
'  L'Assommoir  *  will  be  a  wonderful  success/* 

In  a  pecuniary  sense,  such  was  indeed  the  case  directly 
1£  Charpentier  published  the  book  in  1877.1  Of  the  ordi- 
nary edition  fifty  thousand  copies  —  a  very  large  figure  for 
those  days  —  were  soon  sold,  and  at  the  end  of  1879,  eighty 
thousand  had  been  disposed  of ;  these  being  independent  of 
a  "  popular  "  illustrated  edition,  issued  in  fifty-nine  "  parts  * 
at  ten  centimes  apiece,  forty  thousand  copies  of  which  were 
disseminated  chiefly  among  the  Parisian  working  classes 
(whom  the  story  was  said  to  libel)  in  the  course  of  1878 
alone.  From  1877  onward  an  unexampled  controTersy 
raged  round  the  book  as  well  as  round  Zola's  principles  and 
methods  generally  —  a  controversy  to  which  additional  zest 
was  imparted  both  by  a  dramatic  adaptation  of  the  story, 
which  drew  all  Paris  to  the  Theatre  de  TAmbigu,  and  by 
the  publication  in  French  of  some  of  the  articles  on  French 
literature  and  literary  men  which  Zola  had  written  for  the 
Kussian  review.  More  fuel  was  added  to  the  fire  by  a 
pamphlet  he  penned  and  called  "  la  Edpublique  fran§aise 
et  la  Literature,"  and  by  a  series  of  papers  he  contributed 
to  "  Le  Voltaire  "  and  collected  a  little  later  under  the  title 
of  "Le  Eoman  Experimental."  Wherever  one  went  in 
Paris  one  heard  allusion  to  or  discussion  of  Zola*  "I/As- 
sommoir,"  and  "  naturalism."  The  newspapers  were  full  of 
articles:  the  author  was  attacked  by  such  men  as  Henri 

*  "  L'Assommoir,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1877, 18mo,  573  pages  ;  one  hun- 
dred and  twenty-seventh  thousand  on  sale  in  1893  when  the  Eougon-Macquart 
series  was  completed ;  one  hundred  and  fifty-first  thousand  reached  in  1903. 
Illustrated  edition :  Paris,  Marpon  and  Ilammarion,  1878,  large  8vo,  title,  466 
pages,  with  62  wood  engravings  after  Gill,  Clalrin,  Leloir,  etc.  Issued  origi- 
nally in  parts  (see  above),  the  volume  was  priced  at  6  francs.  It  has  "been 
frequently  reprinted. 


160     JaEOUE  ZQLAf  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Fouquier  in  **Le  XIX*  Si&cle,n  Francisque  Sarcey  in  "Le 
Temp/1  Jules  Claretie  in  "La  Presse,"  Gaucher  in  "La 
Revue  Bleue.**  "  La  Revue  de  France  "  joined  in  the  hos- 
tile chorus  and  so,  too,  did  the  Olympian  "Revue  des 
Deux  Mondes  w ;  while  *  La  Vie  litt&raire  "  and  "  La  Jeune 
Fmnce  *  joined  "  La  R^publique  des  Lettres  w  in  defending 
the  much-abused  author. 

But  pamphlets  also  rained  upon  Paris ;  there  was  "  Zola, 
Pape  et  CMsar,"  by  Madame  Arnault ;  "  Monsieur  Zola/*  by 
"Papa  Cadet ";  a  *  Petit  Trait^  de  Literature  Naturaliste," 
by  "Camille  B."  and  Albert  Vanier;  "  Naturalisme  ou 
R&lisme,"  by  F.  de  Bus ;  *  M.  Zola  et  son  Assommoir,"  by 
Fr&Mric  Erbs;  "Apropos  de  FAssommoir,19  by  Edouard 
Rod,  and  several  others*  But  mere  pamphlets  did  not 
suffice ;  there  eame  **  poems  "  like  **  En  r'venant  d'  TAssom- 
rndtr,^  by  (Mipaux ;  parodies  like  "  L'Assommoir  du  Cirque 
FmncOTii  *  and  *  L'Assommoir  pour  rire  "  by  Blondelet  and 
Beatraaaine ;  and  finally  there  were  lectures  both  against 
Zola  and  in  defence  of  him,  the  most  notable  of  the  latter, 
one  which  particularly  angered  both  the  conservative  critics 
and  the  sensitive  Parnassians,  being  delivered  by  M.  L^on 
Hennique  in  the  Salle  des  Conferences  on  the  Boulevard 
des  Capucines, 

To  a  few  of  the  matters  enumerated  above,  the  production 
of  "  L'Assommoir  "  as  a  play,  and  the  publication  in  volume 
form  of  some  of  Zola's  literary  papers,  it  will  be  necessary 
to  refer  again  in  following  the  thread  of  this  narrative ;  but 
they  have  been  mentioned  here  in  order  that  the  reader  may 
at  once  form  some  idea  of  the  sensation  which  the  appear- 
ance of  "L'Assommoir"  caused,  first  in  the  literary  world 
of  Paris,  whence  it  spread  throughout  the  reading  public. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORHEB     161 

In  the  literary  annals  of  France,  1876, 1877,  and  1878  must 
always  rank  as  the  years  of  "L'Assommoir."  Yet  they 
were  by  no  means  barren  in  other  respects.  They  cover  the 
period  when  Victor  Hngo  published,  not  only  a  new  series  of 
"  La  L<$gende  des  S&cles,"  but  also  «*  I/Art  d'etre  Grandpfere  " 
and  "  L'Histoire  d'un  Crime"  And  other  poets  were  raising 
their  voices :  Leconte  de  lisle  was  issuing  his  translation  of 
Sophocles,  Mallarm4  his  "  Aprfes-midi  d'un  Faune,"  Dierx  his 
"Amants,"  Anatole  France  his  "Nooes  Corinthiennes,** 
Eichepin  his  "  Chanson  des  Gueux.w  And  fiction,  as  usual, 
poured  from  the  printing  presses  of  France.  Flaubert's 
"  Trois  Contes " ;  Daudet's  "  Jack  "  and  "  Le  KTabab  " ;  Gon- 
court's  "La  Fille  Elisa";  Octave  Feuillet's  "Amours  de 
Philippe  " ;  George  Sand's  last  stories,  *  La  Tour  de  Perce- 
mont"  and  "Marianne";  Ferdinand  Fabre's  best  book, 
"L'Abb£  Tigrane,"  were  then  first  offered  to  the  reading 
public.  And  going  further  afield  one  finds  "  Le  Train  17  " 
and  **  La  Maison  Vide,"  by  Jules  Claretie ;  "  Les  Batailles  du 
Manage  "  and  "  Sans  Famille,"  by  Hector  Malot ;  "  Samuel 
Brohl,"  by  Cherbuliez;  "Kaymonde,"  by  Andr4  Theuriet; 
"  Michel  Strogoff,"  by  Jules  Verne ;  "  L*Homme  de  la  Croix- 
aux-Bceufs,"  by  L^on  Cladel,  also  appearing  at  this  time. 
But  none  of  these,  and  indeed,  briefly,  no  novel,  or  play,  or 
poem,  or  historical  or  philosophical  work  of  the  time  stands 
forth  conspicuously,  preeminently,  as  "  L'A&sommoir  "  does, 
to  give  its  name  to  the  date,  to  mark  the  period,  to  indicate 
a  climax  or  an  evolution  in  French  literature. 

Before  "  L'Assommoir,"  the  critics  had  often  treated 
Zola's  books  and  theories  with  silent  contempt,  but  they 
could  do  so  no  longer.  They  were  at  last  compelled  to 
recognise  that  a  new  force  had  arisen,  and  that  they  must 

11 


162     tMJLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER 

be  up  and  doing  If  they  wished  to  prevent  it  from  gaining 
the  mastery.  As  happens  at  every  literary  evolution,  as  was 
the  case  when  the  Romantic  supplanted  the  Classic  school, 
all  the  older  men,  and,  indeed,  nearly  all  of  any  age  who  had 
acquired  a  recognised  position,  were  against  Zola,  his  adher- 
ents being  mostly  young  writers  whose  positions  were  not 
yet  made.  It  has  been  mentioned  that  some  of  the  friends 
of  his  youth  and  early  manhood  had  dropped  away  from 
him,  in  a  measure  by  the  force  of  circumstances.  But "  Le 
Ventre  de  Paris  "  and  "  I/Assommoir  "  brought  him  others, 
and  in  particular  there  were  five  young  men  of  great  promise 
who,  for  a  time,  became  known  as  his  "band."  Taking 
them  by  order  of  seniority,  one  may  place  first  the  ever- 
faithful  Paul  Alexis,  a  Provencal,  in  1877  thirty  years  of 
age.  Second  came  Joris  Karl  Huysmans,  a  Parisian  of 
Dutch  origin,  nine  and  twenty  years  old,  and  already  the 
author  of  a  volume  of  prose  poems  suggestive  of  Baudelaire, 
and  a  novel, "  Marthe."  Next  there  was  Guy  de  Maupas- 
sant, a  Norman,  seven  and  twenty,  introduced  to  Zola  by 
their  mutual  friend  and  master,  Flaubert;  then  Henri 
C£ard,  a  thoroughbred  Parisian,  six  and  twenty,  who  without 
introduction  had  called  upon  Zola  one  Sunday  to  tell  him 
that  he  had  read  his  books  and  admired  them ;  and,  finally, 
L6on  Hennique,  a  native  of  G-uadeloupe,  who  numbered  but 
five  and  twenty  years  against  the  seven  and  thirty  which 
Zola  completed  at  the  time  when  his  first  great  book  was 
published.1 

1  To  the  information  given  above  it  may  be  added  that  Alexis's  first  note- 
worthy work  was  a  play,  "Celle  qu'on  n'epouse  pas"  (Gymnase,  1879)  fol- 
lowed by  "La  Mn  de  Lucie  Pellegrin,"  a  novel,  1880.  Maupassant's  first 
prose  volume  was  "La  Maison  Tellier,"  1881,  following  one  of  verses,  1880, 
Ceard's first  novel  was  "Une  Belle  Journ^e,"  1880;  and  Hennique's  "La 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    163 

Every  Thursday,  for  some  years,  those  five  young  men, 
two  of  whom,  Maupassant  and  Huysmans,  afterwards  rose 
to  eminence,  visited  Zola  and  talked  "  literature  "  with  him, 
even  as  on  Sundays  he  and  they  visited  Gustave  Flaubert. 
The  latter,  amid  all  the  hubbub  and  controversy  pro- 
voked by  "  L'Assommoir,"  felt  that  Zola  was  going  too  far, 
at  least  farther  than  he,  Flaubert,  would  have  gone.  He 
always  underrated  his  own  realism  — or  naturalism,  if  one 
prefer  that  term  —  as  displayed  in  "Madame  Bovary,"  as 
well  as  his  own  philosophy,  outlined  in  "  I/Education  senti- 
mentale  "  and  "  La  Tentation  de  St.  Antoine  " ;  and  if  Zola's 
account  of  him  be  accurate,  his  one  ambition  was  to  be 
known  and  remembered  as  a  stylist,  a  master  of  impeccable 
French.  He  even  denied  that  "  Madame  Bovary "  marked 
any  evolution  in  fiction,  he  shut  his  eyes  to  the  deductions 
which  others  drew  from  it,  and  thus,  when  he  found  himself 
confronted  by  Zola's  venturesome  theories,  he  was  at  first  at 
a  loss  to  account  for  them.  In  one  sense  his  astonishment 
was  amusing :  it  suggested  the  surprise  of  the  cause  at  the 
sight  of  so  remarkable  an  effect.  But  if  he  twitted  Zola 
about  his  naturalist  professions  of  faith  he  did  so,  as 
Goncourt  observes,  "  avec  de  trks  grands  coups  de  chapeau  " 
for  he  fully  recognised  the  ability  of  the  man  who  claimed 
to  be  his  disciple.  One  thing  which  he  did  not  like  was 
the  eagerness  with  which  Zola  accepted  controversy  and 
proclaimed  his  doctrines  on  all  possible  occasions,  for  this 
seemed  to  be  too  suggestive  of  self-advertisement. 

Devoue*e,"  1878.  Both  the  latter  as  well  as  Alexis  may  "be  best  classed  as 
playwrights,  their  later  and  principal  literary  work  having  "been  done  for  the 
stage.  Like  Maupassant  and  Huysmans,  however,  they  contributed  with 
Zola  to  "  Les  Soirees  de  Medan/'  1880,  which  will  be  noticed  in  its  proper 
place. 


164     iMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Zola,  however,  replied  very  naturally,  frankly,  and  boldly, 
that  he,  Flaubert,  possessed  a  small  fortune  and  was  there- 
fore able  to  disregard  all  sorts  of  considerations,  whereas  he, 
Zola,  had  been  obliged  to  earn  his  living  by  his  pen  and 
undertake  at  times  all  kinds  of  writing,  even  contemptible 
work.  "  What  I  write,"  he  added,  "  may  be  divided  into 
two  parts.  There  are  my  books, by  which  I  am  judged, 
and  by  which  I  desire  to  be  judged;  and  there  are  my 
critical  notices  in  *Le  Bien  Public/  my  Russian  articles, 
and  my  correspondence  for  Marseilles  which  I  regard  as  of 
no  account,  which  I  reject,  and  which  I  only  undertake  in 
order  to  help  on  my  books.  I  first  placed  a  nail  in  position 
and  with  the  stroke  of  a  hammer  I  drove  it  half  an  inch 
into  the  brain  of  the  public,  then  with  a  second  blow  I 
drove  it  in  an  inch*  Well,  my  hammer  is  the  newspaper 
work  which  I  myself  do  round^my  own  books."1 

Nothing  could  have  been  more  frank  than  this,  not  even 
his  remark  on  the  same  occasion  —  in  reply  evidently  to 
some  criticism  of  Flaubert's,  which  Goncourt  does  not 
exactly  specify,  —  that  he  cared  not  a  rap  for  the  word 
"  naturalism/3  and  yet  intended  to  repeat  it,  because  things 
required  christening  in  order  that  the  public  might  regard 
them  as  new.2  In  all  this  one  traces  the  determination  to 
succeed  at  any  cost,  the  fighting  spirit  which  had  prompted 
Zola  to  write  to  Antony  Valabrfegue,  more  than  ten  years 
previously,  that  he  belonged  to  an  impatient  age,  that  if  he 
did  not  trample  others  under  foot  they  would  pass  over  him, 
and  that  he  did  not  desire  to  be  crushed  by  fools.  Thus, 
whatever  might  be  his  contempt  for  the  weapons  of  his  time 

1  "  Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  V,  pp.  314-315. 

3  It  is  probable  that  Flaubert  had.  questioned  the  novelty  of  "Naturalism." 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMEB,    165 

—  advertisement  and  pushfulness —  lie  readily  made  use  of 
them,  feeling  that  if  lie  neglected  to  do  so,  amid  all  the 
stress,  all  the  fierce  competition  around  him,  he  might  well 
go  under  and  fail  to  reach  the  goal,  in  spite  of  the  talent  of 
which  he  was  conscious.  The  battle  of  the  age  was  the 
keenest  there  had  ever  been,  a  man  could  only  triumph 
by  incessantly  thrusting  himself  forward,  and  Zola,  for  his 
part,  did  so  without  hesitation. 


VII 

THE  ADVANCE  OF  NATUEALISM 

1877-1881 

*'  "One  Page  d*  Amour  "  —  The  portrayal  of  Love  —  Zola  buys  a  house  at  M6dan 

—  His  play,  **  Le  Bouton  de  Rose  "  —  He  is  accused  of  stealing  the  plot 
of  c<  line  Page  d' Amour  "  — He  attacks  contemporary  French  novelists  — 
Opinions  of  Feuillet  and  Dumas  fils  on  Zola  —  "The  Republic  and  Litera- 
ture "  — Zola  and  the  Legion  of  Honour  —  Flaubert  and  "  Bouvard  "  — 
A  Cabinet  Council  negatives  the  decoration  of  Zola —  "  L'Assommoir  "  as 
a  play  —  Zola  and  Mr.  George  Moore  —  The  effect  of  affluence  on  Zola 

—  The  transformation  of    M&lan  —  Zola's  studies  —  Humanitarianism 
enters  into  his  literary  conceptions  —  Scientific  fiction  and  its  aim  — 
Preparations  for  "ISTana" — La  Palva  —  The  courtesans  of  the  Second 
Empire  — }"  Nana  "  is  published  in  "  Le  Yoltaire  "  —  The  facial  mask  of 
small-pox — "JSTana"  as  a  book  —  Idealism  and  Naturalism:  attractive 
and  repulsive  vice — "  Les  Soirees  de  Medan" —  Maupassant's  **Boule  de 
Suif  "  —  Hereditary  insanity  and  strong  passions — Death  of  Gustave  Flau- 
bert—  Zola's  essay  on  Flaubert  —  Death  of  Zola's  mother  —  His  campaign 
in  "lie   Figaro"  —  His  attack  on  Hugo's  "L'Ane" —  He  assails  Gara- 
betta  —  His  article  on  "  Drunken  Slaves  "  and  defence  of  "  L'Assommoir  " 

—  "  Kana  "  as  a  play  —  Leontine  Massin  plays  Nana  in  real  life  as  well  as 
on  the  stage  —  Zola's  "Romanciers  Faturalistes,"   "Documents  Litt<§- 
raires,"  "  Naturalisme  au  Theatre  "  and  "Auteurs  Dramatiques" — His 
life  of  unflagging  industry. 

AT  an  early  period  of  the  controversies  provoked  by  "  L'  As- 
sommoir/*  that  is  when  its  publication  had  been  transferred 
to  "Le  Bien  Public,"  Zola  quitted  Paris  for  L'Estaque,  a 
tiny  village  nestling  below  precipitous  mountains  on  the 
shore  of  the  Golfe  des  Crottes,  beyond  which  spreads  the 
Mediterranean,  with  the  various  islands,  including  the 
Chateau  d'lf  of  « Monte  Cristo,"  which  mark  the  approach 
to  the  port  of  Marseilles.  In  this  quiet  retreat,  where  life 
among  the  tunny-fishers  was  rather  primitive,  the  novelist 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER    167 

began  to  write  "  Une  Page  d' Amour,"  which  he  had  planned 
before  leaving  Paris.  Edmond  de  Goncourt  mentions  an 
amusing  discussion  started  by  Zola,  apropos  of  this  book,  at 
a  dinner  given  to  Tourgeneff,  who  was  leaving  for  Eussia. 
Love,  in  Zola's  opinion,  did  not  master  one  so  absolutely  as 
some  pretended ;  and,  said  he,  phenomena  similar  to  those 
which  might  be  observed  in  love  were  also  to  be  found  in 
friendship  and  patriotism.  Tor  his  part,  he  had  never  been 
madly  in  love,  and  therefore  found  it  difficult  to  depict  such 
a  state  of  things  in  others.  Flaubert  and  Goncourt  admitted 
a  similar  incapacity,  arising  from  the  same  cause,  and  it  was 
agreed  that  the  only  one  of  the  party  whom  experience 
might  have  qualified  to  portray  the  great  passion  adequately, 
was  Tourgeneff,  who,  however,  was  unfortunately  deficient 
in  the  necessary  critical  sense. 

The  question  whether  Zola's  portrayal  of  love  in  "Une 
Page  d' Amour"  was  adequate  is  certainly  open  to  doubt; 
and  whatever  the  power  and  beauty  of  the  book's  pictures 
of  Paris,  as  viewed  from  the  Trocad^ro,  at  sunrise,  at  sun- 
down, at  night,  in  a  storm,  and  under  the  snow,  one  may 
demur  to  the  often  expressed  opinion  that  they  were  the 
best  he  ever  limned.  They  doubtless  cost  him  an  effort,  but 
after  the  great  labour  which  the  writing  of  "  L'Assommoir  " 
had  involved,  "  Une  Page  d*  Amour,"  with  its  few  characters 
and  its  narrow  scope  of  action,  was  almost  a  restful  book. 
It  should  be  observed,  indeed,  that  Zola  seldom  penned  two 
great  panoramic  works  in  succession.  His  own  explana- 
tion of  the  course  he  took  in  writing  such  comparatively 
quiet  books  as  "  Une  Page  d' Amour,"  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre  " 
and  "Le  K§ve"  between  works  of  crowded  incident  like 
«L'Assommoir,""Nana,"" Germinal,"  "La  Terre,"  and  "La 


168      $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

B§te  Humaine,"  was  that  he  wished  to  diversify  his  series 
as  much  as  possible;  but  it  is  also  certain  that  he  often 
found  it  necessary  to  husband  his  energies,  to  allow  himself 
breathing  time,  as  it  were,  between  two  great  efforts. 

He  spent  some  months  at  L'Estaque  writing  "  line  Page 
d' Amour,"  and  on  returning  to  Paris  late  in  the  autumn  of 
1877,  enriched  as  he  was  by  the  sales  of  "  L'Assommoir,"  he 
removed  his  home  to  a  handsome  third-floor  flat,  23,  Rue  de 
Boulogne.  Then,  while  searching  the  environs  of  Paris  for 
a  country  pied-fa-terre,  a  convenient  retreat  for  the  following 
summer  —  when  the  first  great  Exhibition  since  the  Franco- 
German  War  was  to  "be  held  in  Paris  —  he  came  upon  a 
little  house  which  took  his  fancy.  It  stood  on  the  verge 
of  the  village  of  M^dan,  which  overlooks  the  Seine,  beyond 
Poissy.  Zola  merely  wished  to  rent  it,  but  the  owner  de- 
sired a  purchaser,  not  a  tenant,  and  in  the  end  the  novelist 
bought  the  little  place  for  nine  thousand  francs.1  A  few 
weeks  later,  says  Alexis,  builders,  painters,  and  upholsterers 
were  turned  into  the  house  to  repair  and  fit  it  for  occupa- 
tion, and  for  several  years  they  remained  busy  there  on  the 
various  enlargements  which  followed  and  the  other  work 
which  became  necessary. 

Already  in  1876,  having  acquired  by  his  contributions  to 
"  Le  Bien  Public f>  what  may  be  at  least  called  a  conspicuous 
position  as  a  dramatic  critic  of  very  absolute  views,  Zola, 
still  hankering  for  theatrical  success,  had  written  a  farce 
called  "Le  Bouton  de  Rose"  intended  for  the  Palais  Royal 
Theatre.  At  the  beginning  of  1877  the  parts  were  distribu- 
ted, and  some  rehearsals  even  took  place;  then,  however, 
the  success  of  the  work  seeming  doubtful,  it  was  postponed ; 

i  £360  =  about?!, 800. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE      169 

and  Zola  himself,  somewliat  diffident  as  to  its  merit,  at 
last  decided  to  withdraw  it  altogether.  But  early  in  1878 
the  great  uproar  occasioned  by  "  L'Assommoir  "  inspired  the 
directors  of  the  Palais  Eoyal  Theatre  with  a  fresh  desire 
to  stage  this  play  by  a  man  whose  name  was  now  on  every- 
body's lips.  They  urged  him  to  consent,  and  he  ultimately 
did  so,  making  various  alterations  which  the  directors  deemed 
to  be  advisable.  The  play  was  then  rehearsed  again,  and 
both  the  managers  and  the  actors,  now  as  sanguine  as  they 
had  previously  been  doubtful,  imagined  that  it  would  prove 
a  triumph.  But  at  the  first  performance  (May  6, 1878 )  the 
audience,  after  receiving  the  first  act  with  favour,  became 
angry  during  the  second,  and  hissed  the  third  freely.  In 
vain  did  Geoffroy,  the  leading  comedian,  endeavour  to  an- 
nounce the  author's  name  according  to  usage ;  such  a  tre- 
mendous din  arose  when  he  appeared  before  the  footlights, 
that  he  was  unable  to  make  himself  heard.  Meantime  Zola, 
in  the  slips,  was  saying  to  the  crestfallen  directors :  tc  You 
see  I  was  right.  You  insisted  on  staging  the  piece  in  spite 
of  me.  Your  earlier  decision  to  drop  it  was  the  better  one." 
In  accordance  with  custom,  he  had  arranged  to  celebrate 
the  first  performance  by  a  supper  at  V£four's.  In  a  sense 
the  repast  was  a  funereal  one,  though  it  proved  by  no  means 
doleful,  for  Zola  took  the  failure  of  his  play  right  cheerfully, 
merely  regretting  that  he  would  now  have  to  modify  the 
order  of  the  work  which  he  had  proposed  to  undertake  that 
year.  Had  "  Le  Bouton  de  Eose "  been  successful,  he  had 
intended  to  begin  another  play,  based  on  his  novel  "La 
Cur£e,"  but  that  would  now  have  to  wait  while  he  started 
on  the  next  novel  of  his  series.  Some  days  later,  when  din- 
ing at  M.  Charpentier's,  he  told  Goncourt  that  the  failure  of 


170      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

"Le  Bouton  de  Rose**  made  him  feel  quite  young  again. 
The  success  of  "  L'Assommoir  "  had  unnerved  him,  whereas 
lie  now  seemed  to  have  got  back  to  his  twentieth  year.  He 
needed  to  be  imbued  with  an  angry  fighting  spirit,  said  he, 
in  order  to  write  the  many  volumes  which  were  required  to 
complete  his  Kougon-Macquart  series. 

"  Une  Page  d'Amour"  was  about  this  time  issued  serially 
by  "Le  Bien  Public,^  whose  readers  took  it  more  quietly 
than  they  had  taken  "  L'Assommoir  " ;  but  when  it  appeared 
as  a  volume  *  Zola  was  accused  of  having  stolen  his  plot 
from  a  novel  called  "  Les  Amours  d'un  Homme  Laid,"  by 
a  Madame  Berton,  nee  Samson.  It  may  be  said  at  once 
that  there  are  several  points  of  resemblance  between  the 
plots  of  these  stories.  A  young  widow,  a  doctor,  and  a 
sickly  child  are  prominent  characters  in  both.  At  the  same 
time  there  is  great  difference  of  treatment;  and  Zola,  on 
hearing  of  the  accusation,  which  first  emanated  from  a  jour- 
nal called  "  La  Paix  Sociale,"  at  once  wrote  to  it :  "I  have 
never  read  Madame  Berton-Samson's  story,  and  until  today 

1  was  ignorant  of  the  existence  both  of  the  author  and 
of  the  work." 

To  an  unprejudiced  person  it  may  well  seem  that  the 
similarity  existing  between  his  story  and  Madame  Berton's 
was  due  solely  to  the  long  arm  of  coincidence.  But  of 
course  his  enemies  asserted  that  he  lied.  According  to  them 

1  "Tine  Page  <T Amour,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1878,  18mo,  Tii-486  pages 
(genealogical  tree  of  tlie  Rougon-Macquarts) ;  seven ty-fifth  thousand  on 
sale  in  1893  when  the  series  was  completed ;  ninety-seventh,  thousand  in 
1903,  Illustrated  edition  ;  Paris,  Librairie  du  Bibliophile  (Jouaust),  1884, 

2  vols.  crown  8vo,  iv-261  and  287  pages;  portrait  and  ten.  designs  "by 
Ed.  Dantan,  etched  by  Duvivier,  ornaments  by  G-iacomelli.     Impressions  on 
various  papers,  Dutch,  India,  Japanese,  etc.    Another  illustrated  edition, 
Paris,  1894,  with  etchings  and  woodcuts  designed  by  F.  TheVenot. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      171 

lie  was  always  lying :  and  indeed  every tMng  he  wrote,  from 
the  time  of  attaining  any  prominence,  was  denounced  as 
being  wholly  or  in  part  plagiarism.  Even  "  L'Assommoir " 
was  alleged  to  be  merely  a  crib  from  Denis  Poulot's  "Le 
Sublime";1  and,  briefly,  Ms  adversaries  would  not  allow 
that  he  was  possessed  of  a  single  spark  of  originality. 

At  this  time  (1878)  he  had  so  many  irons  in  the  fire,  as 
the  saying  goes,  that  it  is  difficult  to  follow  his  work  in 
strict  chronological  order.  We  find  him  preparing  his 
novel  "  Nana,"  collecting  materials  for  it,  devising  its  plot  ; 
penning  theatrical  criticisms  for  "Le  Bien  Public,"  con- 
tributing to  "Le  Voltaire";  planning  with  Messrs.  Bus- 
nach  and  G-astineau  a  dramatic  version  of  "  L'Assommoir  "  ; 
and  writing  a  series  of  papers,  chiefly  on  "  Les  Ronianciers 
Naturalistes,"  for  the  "  Viestnik  Yevropi "  of  St.  Petersburg. 
One  of  those  papers,  a  general  critique  of  contemporary 
French  novelists,  their  methods  and  their  abilities,  was 
a  slashing  and  in  some  respects  unjust  onslaught  on  all 
who  did  not  conform  to  the  tenets  of  the  Naturalist  school. 
It  was  published  by  the  Russian  review  in  September  (1878), 
and  a  month  later  was  denounced  by  a  Swiss  periodical, 
"  La  Biblioth&que  Universelle,"  which  gave  a  resumt  of  its 
contents.  Such,  however,  was  then  the  "insularity"  of 
France  with  respect  to  literary  happenings  abroad,  that 
December  arrived  before  a  Parisian  journal,  "Le  Figaro," 
discovered  the  obnoxious  paper  and  proceeded  to  rate  its 
author.  This  it  did  in  its  most  virulent  style,  borrowing 
for  the  occasion  a  variety  of  slang  epithets  from  the  pages 
of  "L'Assommoir."  And  as  a  crowning  stroke  Zola  was 

1  "Le  Sublime,  on  le  Travailleur  comme  il  est  et  ce  qu'il  peut  £tre," 
Paris,  Charpentier,  1865. 


172     tiMTLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

accused  of  arrant  cowardice.  He  did  not  dare  to  attack 
Ms  contemporaries  in  the  French  language  and  in  a  French 
journal,  it  was  said;  he  sought  a  foreign  country  and  a 
foreign  tongue  for  his  venomous  outpourings. 

His  reply  to  this  accusation  was  characteristic.  He 
offered  "  Le  Figaro  "  the  original  French  manuscript  of  his 
article  —  which  differed  in  many  respects  from  the  resumt 
issued  by  the  Swiss  review  —  and  "  Le  Figaro,"  which  had 
denounced  some  of  his  remarks  as  unprintable,  speedily  in- 
serted the  entire  paper  in  its  literary  supplement,1  The 
uproar  in  literary  circles  then  became  terrific.  Among 
those  whom  Zola  assailed  were  Hector  Malot,  Ferdinand 
Fabre,  Octave  Feuillet,  Victor  Cherbuliez,  Edmond  About, 
Louis  Ulbach,  Erckmann-Ohatrian,  Paul  F^val,  Jules 
daretie,  and  L£on  Cladel;  and  it  was  pointed  out  that 
the  only  writers  whom  he  praised  or  spared  were  those 
whose  works  were  issued  by  his  own  publisher,  M.  Char- 
pentier !  Of  course,  said  the  quidnuncs,  he  must  have  been 
paid  for  this  service;  M.  Charpentier  could  not  have  given 
him  less  than  ten  thousand  francs  for  his  article,  though 
if  M.  Calmann-L^vy,  for  instance,  had  offered  him  twenty 
thousand,  he  would  doubtless  have  written  up  that  pub- 
lisher's writers  instead  of  abusing  them. 

As  already  mentioned,  the  article  in  question  was  in 
some  measure  unjust,  for  it  assumed  a  priori  that  only  the 
Naturalist  school  of  fiction  was  entitled  to  live;  but  at 
the  same  time  it  contained  some  sound  criticism.  Nobody 
nowadays  would  deny  the  proposition  that  Hector  Malot, 
in  whom  at  one  time  many  hopes  had  centred,  never 
produced  a  really  great  book ;  that  Jules  Claretie  also,  in 

1  "Le  Figaro,"  Supplement  Litt&aire,  December  22,  1878. 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    173 

spite  of  his  many  undoubted  gifts,  never  rose  above  the 
second  rank  as  a  novelist;  that  Cladel  rendered  himself 
ridiculous  by  the  affectation  of  his  style,  and  that  men 
like  About  and  Feuillet  had  greatly  declined  at  the  period 
when  Zola  wrote.  But,  naturally  enough,  these,  and  all  the 
others  whom  he  named,  disliked  to  be  told  to  their  faces 
that  they  had  always  been  or  had  become  inferior  men; 
and  thus  no  little  wrath  was  kindled  in  many  directions. 
There  was,  however,  one  man  who  not  only  showed  no 
resentment  but  unhesitatingly  acknowledged  his  own  great 
admiration  for  Zola's  work.  And  this,  strange  as  it  may 
seem,  was  Octave  Feuillet,  who  freely  expressed  himself 
in  that  sense  both  to  his  friend,  Adrien  Marx,  and  to  the 
present  writer.  The  latter  had  occasion  to  call  upon  him 
with  respect  to  one  of  his  last  books,  and,  some  general 
conversation  on  literary  matters  supervening,  Feuillet  men- 
tioned Zola,  saying  that  he  had  at  first  found  it  almost 
impossible  to  read  the  writings  of  the  Naturalist  master, 
but  having  forced  himself  to  do^so,  his  feeling  of  repulsion 
had  departed,  leaving  sympathy  and  admiration  in  its  place. 
Another  famous  writer  whom  Zola  attacked  even  more 
bitterly  than  he  attacked  Feuillet,  one  with  whom  he  had 
many  a  literary  duel  —  Alexandre  Dumas  fils  —  also  ended 
by  expressing  very  kindly  sentiments.  "My  literary  stand- 
point," he  said  to  the  present  writer,  "is  not  the  same  as 
Zola's.  On  some  matters  no  agreement  between  us  is  possi- 
ble. But  he  is  a  strong  man ;  and,"  added  Dumas  bluffly, 
with  a  momentary  flash  of  the  paternal  manner, "  what  I 
particularly  like  about  him  is  his  damned  frankness."1 

1  It  was  as  the  Paris  correspondent  of  various  English  newspapers  that 
the  writer  became  acquainted  with  a  good  many  French  literary  men.    A 


174     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Later,  when  Zola  became  a  candidate  for  the  French  Academy, 
Dumas  Jils  was  one  of  his  most  consistent  supporters.1  Jules 
Claretie  also  evinced  an  equally  forgiving  disposition. 

As  for  Zola,  his  literary  views  certainly  became  more 
liberal  as  he  grew  older;  but  at  the  period  one  has  now 
reached  he  was  in  his  most  arbitrary  and  dogmatic  mood, 
going  so  far  as  to  suggest  in  a  pamphlet  that  each  rfyime 
must  have  its  appropriate  literature,  that  Naturalist  litera- 
ture alone  was  suited  to  the  Republic,  and  that  the  Republic 
itself  must  prove  Naturalist,  or  otherwise  would  assuredly 
collapse.  "By  Naturalism,"  said  he,  "I  mean  analytical 
and  experimental  methods  based  on  facts  and  human  docu- 
ments. There  must  be  agreement  between  the  social  move- 
ment, which  is  the  cause,  and  literature,  which  is  the  effect. 
If  the  Republic,  blind  as  to  itself,  and  failing  to  understand 
that  it  exists  by  the  force  of  a  scientific  formula,  should 
begin  to  persecute  that  formula  in  literature,  this  would 
be  a  sign  that  the  Republic  is  not  ripe  for  facts,  and  that 
it  must  once  again  give  place  to  one,  that  is  dictatorship. "  2 

The  pamphlet  we  have  quoted  was  issued  early  in  1879. 
Some  months  previously  both  Gustave  Flaubert  and  Al- 
phonse  Daudet,  being  well  acquainted  with  M.  Ag&ior 
Bardoux,  an  Auvergnat  poetaster  and  politician  appointed 
Miiister  of  Public  Instruction,  had  suggested  to  him  that 
ZoFa,  who  by  "  L'Assommoir "  had  now  risen  to  a  con- 
reference  to  the  Paris  letters  in  the  first  volumes  of  the  "  Illustrated  Sporting 
and  Dramatic  News  "  will  show  that  the  writer  at  one  time  dealt  largely  with 
the  [French  stage.  In  that  connection  he  was  fortunate  enough  to  secure  the 
favour  of  Dumas  jits  to  whom  he  was  indebted  for  many  little  kindnesses. 

1  Zola  to  Yizetelly,  November,  1898. 

2  "La  B^publique  Franchise  et  la  Litte'rature,"  8vo,  Paris,  Charpentier, 
1879.    The  text  of  this  pamphlet  was  added  by  Zola  to  the  collection  of 
papers  entitled  "Le  Eoman  Experimental,"  which  he  issued  in  1880. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    175 

spicuous  position,  ought  to  be  made  a  knight  of  the 
Legion  of  Honour.1  Daudet,  in  this  matter,  was  actuated 
by  friendship  and  admiration,  and  Flaubert  deemed  him- 
self to  be  under  a  great  obligation  to  Zola.  It  seems 
that  while  Flaubert  was  writing  his  "Bouvard  et  P^cuchet " 
(which  did  not  appear  till  after  his  death),  he  had  often 
spoken  of  it  to  his  friends  in  a  somewhat  mysterious  man- 
ner, never  actually  giving  the  names  of  his  characters,  but 
referring  to  them  merely  by  their  initials,  B.  and  P.  Zola 
was  then  working  on  "Son  Excellence  Eug&ne  Rougon," 
and  one  day,  when  he  and  Flaubert  met  at  a  lunch  given 
by  M.  Charpentier,  he  mentioned  that  a  capital  name  had 
occurred  to  him  for  one  of  his  characters,  this  name  being 
Bouvard,  which,  with  its  suggestion  of  blotting-paper,  was 
certainly  a  fit  appellation  for  a  civil  service  scribe.  It  so 
happened  —  such  is  coincidence — that  Zola  and  Flaubert 
proposed  to  bestow  it  on  much  the  same  type  of  man ;  but 
the  former,  of  course,  was  quite  ignorant  of  his  friend's 
intentions,  for  Flaubert,  restricting  himself  to  the  initial 
B.,  had  never  allowed  the  word  Bouvard  to  escape  his  lips. 
When  it  fell  from  Zola's,  the  author  of  "  Madame  Bovary  n 
was  greatly  upset.  "  He  became  quite  strange,"  wrote  Zola 
on  subsequently  relating  the  incident,  "  and  after  lunch  he 
took  me  to  the  bottom  of  Charpentier's  garden,  where,  with 
a  great  show  of  emotion,  he  implored  me  to  surrender  the 
name  of  Bouvard  to  Mm.  I  assented,  laughing;  but  he 
remained  very  grave,  plainly  touched,  and  even  declared 
that  he  would  not  have  persevered  with  his  book  if  I  had 
insisted  on  using  the  name.  He  looked  upon  his  work  as 

i  Alexis,  I.  c.,  p.  190  et  se%. ;  Adolphe  Brisson  in  (<  Le  Temps,"  October  3, 
1902. 


176    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER 

being  entirely  in  those  two  names  Bouvard  and  Pdcuchet, 
and  could  not  picture  it  without  them."1 

Now  Flaubert  was  one  of  the  best-hearted  men  in  the 
world.  He  regarded  Zola's  trifling  concession  as  an  act  of 
great  generosity,  and  it  was  to  mark  his  sense  of  it  that 
he  solicited  for  his  friend  the  Cross  of  the  Legion  of  Hon- 
our. Pressed  both  by  Daudet  and  Flaubert,  M.  Bardoux 
showed  himself  very  favourably  disposed;  and  when,  in 
accordance  with  usage,  he  was  visited  by  Zola,  he  told  him 
straightly  he  would  be  gazetted  on  the  next  National 
F§te-day  July  14,  1878.  That  date  came  and  went,  how- 
ever, and  Zola's  name  did  not  appear  in  the  "Journal 
Officiel"  —  the  cross  promised  to  him  going,  instead,  to 
Ferdinand  Fabre.  Other  occasions  presented  themselves, 
Bardoux  was  often  urged  to  keep  his  promise,  but  as  often 
evaded  it,  and  of  course  when  the  uproar  provoked  by 
Zola's  paper  on  his  fellow-novelists  supervened,  it  afforded 
a  good  excuse  for  shelving  the  matter  altogether.  Mean- 
time the  affair  had  become  common  talk  in  certain  literary 
circles,  and  Zola,  who  felt  that  he  was  being  made  ridicu- 
lous, had  more  than  once  threatened  to  fling  the  cross  in 
Bardoux's  face  if  he  should  eventually  tender  it.  Alexis, 
in  recounting  the  affair,  throws  virtually  all  the  blame 
on  the  Minister;  but  the  latter,  after  various  paltry  and 
untruthful  excuses,  which  certainly  put  him  in  a  bad  light, 
told  Edmond  de  Goncourt  that  if  he  had  failed  to  keep  his 
promise  it  was  not  his  fault,  but  really  that  of  his  colleagues 
in  the  Government.2 

It  really  seems  to  be  the  case  that  the  question  whether 

1  "Les  Romanciers  ETaturalistes,"  p.  204. 

3  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  VI  (January  21,  1879). 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      177 

Zola  should  be  decorated  was  made  an  affair  of  State, 
solemnly  debated  by  the  Council  of  Ministers  at  the  Ely- 
s£e  Palace,  Marshal  MacMahon  being  in  the  chair,  prob- 
ably with  his  usual  cigar  between  his  lips,  and  his  usual 
bottle  of  green  Chartreuse  standing  handy  on  a  cheffonnier, 
in  order  that  he  might  help  himself  whenever  "  he  felt  so 
disposed,"  which,  according  to  the  scandal-mongers  of  the 
day,  was  pretty  often.  And  the  brave,  honest,  and  narrow- 
minded  Marshal,  who  —  perhaps  at  his  wife's  instigation  — 
absolutely  refused  to  promote  the  impious  Eenan  from  the 
rank  of  chevalier  to  that  of  officer  of  the  Legion  of  Honour, 
was  in  thorough  agreement  with  all  the  Ministers  who 
opposed  the  unlucky  Bardoux  when  he  asked  that  the  red 
ribbon  might  be  conferred  on  the  obscene  Zola.  On  his 
side,  the  latter,  ignorant  of  the  real  circumstances  of  the 
case,  and  more  and  more  annoyed  by  the  spiteful  allusions 
to  the  affair  which  appeared  in  some  of  the  newspapers, 
issued  an  open  letter  formally  signifying  his  renunciation 
of  the  red  ribbon,  with  the  result  that  for  some  years  there 
was  no  further  question  of  "  decorating  "  the  foremost  nov- 
elist of  France. 

On  January  18, 1879,  the  Ambigu  Theatre  gave  the  first 
performance  of  the  dramatic  version  of  "  L'Assommoir  "  pre- 
pared by  Messrs.  Busnach  and  Gastineau,  who,  in  point 
of  fact,  had  been  largely  assisted  by  Zola,  though  his  name 
did  not  appear  on  the  bills,  and  he  allowed  all  the  merit  of 
the  play's  success  to  be  attributed  to  his  colleagues.  Gon- 
court  tells  us  that  during  the  rehearsals  his  melancholy 
mien  quite  chilled  the  actors,  who  by  no  means  anticipated 
a  success.1  While  the  first  performance  was  in  progress 

*  "Journal  des  Goncourt,  Vol.  VI  (January  21,  1878). 
12 


178     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

Zola  sat  reading  in  tlie  manager's  private  room,  and  on  the 
fall  of  the  curtain  Ms  friends  repaired  thither  to  inform  him 
that,  apart  from  a  little  hissing,  everything  had  gone  off 
satisfactorily.  Nevertheless,  the  critics  attacked  the  play, 
an  English  writer,  George  Augustus  Sala,  evincing  par- 
ticular distress  in  a  long  article  which  recalled  Sarcey's 
customary  brief  verdict :  "  That  man  Zola  makes  me  ill." l 

But  all  Paris  had  read  "  L'Assommoir "  as  a  novel,  and 
wished  to  see  it  on  the  stage ; 2  and,  besides,  even  the  critics 
could  not  deny  that  Madame  H^lfene  Petit's  impersonation 
of  the  unhappy  Gervaise  was  a  great  personal  triumph. 
Thus  crowds  flocked  to  the  Theatre  de  1'Ambigu,  whose 
director,  Henri  Chabrillat,  an  ex-journalist  and  novelist, 
who  had  commanded  the  Francs-tireurs  de  la  Presse  during 
the  Franco-German  War,  suddenly  found  himself  making 
a  fortune. 

In  honour  of  the  staff  and  company  of  the  Ambigu, 
the  authors  of  the  play  ended  by  giving  a  ball  at  the 
Elys6e  Montmartre,  which,  by  the  way,  figured  in  Zola's 
story;  and  Mr.  George  Moore,  the  well-known  author  of 
"A  Mummer's  Wife"  and  "Esther  Waters,"  has  related 
that  his  first  meeting  with  Zola  —  of  whom  he  became 
for  several  years  the  chief  English  supporter  —  occurred 
at  this  particular  entertainment.3  Mr.  Moore  —  who  had 
then  only  produced  his  "Flowers  of  Passion,"  and  was 
therefore  known  in  Parisian  literary  and  art  circles  as 
a  young  poet  —  attended  the  ball  dressed  as  a  Parisian 

1  See  Sala's  "Paris  herself  Again, "  London,  Vizetelly  &  Co.,  1879  et  seq. 

2  It  will  be  remembered  that  Charles  Eeade  prepared  an  English  version 
entitled  "  Drink." 

8  "My  Impressions  of  Zola,"  by  George  Moore,  in  "The  English  Illus- 
trated Magazine,"  February,  1894 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    179 

workman,  and  was  engaged  to  dance  with  Gervaise.  He 
had  no  opportunity  for  conversation  when  Manet  intro- 
duced him  to  Zola,  but  he  called  at  M&lan  a  few  weeks 
afterwards,  and  a  close  friendship  sprang  up  between  Mm 
and  the  author  of  "  L'Assommoir."  Each,  however,  was 
possessed  of  strong  personal  convictions,  and,  as  years 
went  by,  Zola's  life  and  work  gradually  took  a  course  of 
which  Mr.  Moore  did  not  approve,  perhaps  because  —  as 
admitted  by  himself  —  he  failed  to  understand  it. 

The  law  of  the  world  is  evolution.  EJumme  abmrde 
est  celui  gui  ne  change  jamais;  and  Zola,  amid  the  very 
triumph  of  "  L'Assommoir,"  at  the  very  moment  when 
he  was  expounding  the  principles  of  Naturalism  in  the 
"Viestnik  Yevropi"  and  "Le  Yoltaire"  (which  he  joined 
when  "Le  Bien  Public "  ceased  publication),  was  already, 
and  quite  unconsciously,  perhaps,  undergoing  a  change. 
He  was  in  some  degree  carried  away  by  the  sudden  acces- 
sion of  ample  means  after  years  of  poverty  and  years  of 
battle.  In  the  long  run  he  showed  himself  superior  to 
fortune,  whether  it  were  favourable  or  adverse,  but  he  found 
its  first  smile  irresistible,  as  so  often  happens  with  those 
who  have  long  toiled  and  suffered  and  cursed  their  fate. 
Briefly,  he  proved  no  exception  to  the  general  rule;  and 
he  was  taunted  with  having  failed  to  depart  from  it, 
being  candidly  told  in  print  that,  like  Herbert  Spencer  and 
Gustave  Flaubert,  he  ought  to  have  been  quite  content 
with  mere  lodging-house  surroundings,  and  that  he  made 
a  ridiculous  use  of  his  comparative  wealth. 

Most  of  his  money,  it  may  be  mentioned,  was  lavished 
on  his  property  at  M£dan,  to  which  he  made  many  addi- 
tions, building,  for  instance,  a  large  square  tower  in  which 


180     tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

he  fitted  up  a  spacious  workroom,  whose  huge  window 
suggested  that  of  a  studio.  In  that  room  in  later  years 
most  of  his  "books  were  written.  And  as  wealth  accrued 
a  second  large  tower  was  added  to  the  first,  followed  by 
some  smaller  ones  flanking  the  entrance  of  the  property. 
All  this  was  denounced  as  had  taste ;  and  unquestionably, 
from  an  architectural  point  of  view,  M4dan,  with  one  bit 
of  building  added  here  and  another  there,  became  a  strange- 
looking  place.  At  the  same  time  it  remains  an  interest- 
ing memorial  of  the  rise  of  Zola's  fortunes.  One  knows, 
for  instance,  that  the  first  tower  was  built  with  money 
derived  from  "  L'Assommoir,"  that  the  second  was  erected 
with  some  of  the  proceeds  of  "Nana,"  that  this  and  that 
enlargement  were  paid  for  by  "  La  Terre  "  or  "  La  DdMcle." 
Certainly  no  common  parvenu  would  have  left  such  a 
tell-tale  record.  It  is  doubtful  whether  he  would  have 
been  content  to  dwell  during  the  greater  part  of  the  year 
in  an  out-of-the  way  village  like  M^dan ;  and  even  had  he 
retained  possession  of  the  property  he  would  surely  have 
demolished  the  original  humble  little  house  and  have 
erected  some  grand  Louis  Treize  cMteau  on  the  site. 

But  another  charge  preferred  against  Zola  was  that  he 
wasted  time  and  money  in  collecting  works  of  art  and 
curios  —  the  latter  more  often  than  the  former.  In  his 
novel,  "  L'CEuvre,"  he  gave  an  explanation  of  this  which  is 
worth  quoting: 

"  His  [Sandoz's,  otherwise  Zola's]  drawing-room  was  becoming 
crowded  with  old  furniture,  old  tapestry,  nick-nacks  of  all  coun- 
tries and  all  times  —  an  overflowing  torrent  of  things  which  had 
begun  at  Batignolles  with  an  old  pot  of  Eouen  ware,  which  Hen- 
riette  [Madame  Zola]  had  given  her  husband  on  one  of  his  f&te 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    181 

days.  They  ran  about  the  curiosity  shops  together ;  they  felt  a 
joyful  passion  for  buying ;  and  he  now  satisfied  the  old  longings 
of  his  youth,  the  romanticist  aspirations  which  the  first  books  he 
had  read  had  engendered.  Thus  this  writer,  who  was  so  fiercely 
modern,  lived  amid  the  worm-eaten  middle  ages  which  he  had 
dreamt  of  when  he  was  a  lad  of  fifteen.  As  an  excuse,  he  laugh- 
ingly declared  that  handsome  modern  furniture  cost  too  much, 
whereas  with  old  things,  even  common  ones,  you  immediately  ob- 
tained some  effect  and  colour.  There  was  nothing  of  fhe  collector 
about  Jiim,  his  one  concern  was  decoration,  broad  effects;  and  to 
tell  the  truth,  the  drawing-room,  lighted  by  two  lamps  of  old 
Delft  ware,  derived  quite  a  soft,  warm  tone  from  the  dull  gold  of 
the  dalmaticas  used  for  upholstering  the  seats,  the  yellowish  incrus- 
tations of  the  Italian  cabinets  and  Dutch  show-cases,  the  faded 
hues  of  the  Oriental  door-hangings,  the  hundred  little  notes  of 
the  ivory,  the  crockery  and  the  enamel  work,  pale  with  age, 
which  showed  against  the  dull  red  hangings."1 

No  doubt,  among  the  great  quantity  of  tapestry,  carved 
wood,  old  furniture,  pottery,  church  embroideries,  and  so 
forth,  which  Zola  thus  gathered  together,  there  were  oc- 
casionally things  which  did  not  suggest  the  best  taste  or 
the  greatest  accuracy  of  judgment.  But  the  statement 
quoted  above  shows  that  he  disclaimed  collecting  in  the 
ordinary  sense,  and  made  purchases  solely  for  decorative 
purposes.  And,  in  any  case,  even  if  lie  bought  a  few 
things  whose  only  recommendation  was  their  quaintness, 
or  accepted  an  object  as  genuine  when  an  expert  would 
have  known  it  to  be  spurious,  his  transgressions  in  those 
matters  were  of  no  importance  to  the  world  at  large,  and 
one  is  surprised  that  some  of  his  "  candid  friends  "  should 
have  thought  it  worth  while  to  expatiate  on  them. 


i  « 


L'CEuvre,"  p.  435. 


182     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

It  has  been  urged,  however,  that  directly  money  came 
to  Zola,  instead  of  yielding  to  a  desire  for  comfort,  he  ought 
to  have  devoted  himself  to  travel  and  study,  and  particu- 
larly have  restrained  his  literary  output  He  would  have 
derived  henefit  from  foreign  travel  undoubtedly,  but  his 
self-set  task  of  the  Rougon-Macquart  series  long  riveted 
him  to  France.  As  for  study,  he  was  always  studying, 
books  as  well  as  men,  and  Mr.  George  Moore's  suggestion 
that  he  had  little  acquaintance  with  the  heart  of  French 
literature1  was  erroneous,  for  abundant  proof  of  the  con- 
trary will  be  found  in  the  eight  volumes  of  his  collected 
essays  and  articles.  These  also  show  that  he  kept  abreast 
of  the  literature  of  Ms  time,  and  all  his  friends  are  aware 
that  new  books  and  literary  periodicals,  to  say  nothing  of 
a  profusion  of  newspapers,  encompassed  him  during  the  last 
twenty  years  of  his  life.  But,  in  a  large  degree,  he  cer- 
tainly set  the  literature  of  the  past  behind  him,  regarding 
it  as  being  chiefly  of  historical  value.  And  whether  he 
were  right  or  wrong  in  that  matter,  it  must  be  obvious 
that  his  attitude  was  in  keeping  with  his  character  as  an 
evolutionist.  In  a  word,  he  was  more  concerned  respecting 
the  future  of  literature  than  respecting  its  antecedents. 

But  it  has  been  said  that  a  change  began  to  appear  in 
Zola  about  the  time  of  "  I/Assommoir,"  and  the  change 
we  more  particularly  mean  is  that  by  which  the  novelist 
expanded  into  a  reformer.  As  scores  of  his  newspaper 
articles,  collected  and  uncollected,  testify,  the  injustice  of 
the  social  system  had  always  been  manifest  to  him.  With 
the  degradation  of  many  individual  lives  he  was  well  ac- 
quainted. His  own  rise  to  affluence  made  him  yet  more 

i  "JEnglMi  Illustrated  Magazine,"  L  c. 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     183 

conscious  of  the  difference  "between  the  rich  and  the  poor. 
His  descent  into  the  mire  of  life,  to  seek  there  his  Cou- 
peau,  his  Lantier,  and  his  Gervaise,  left  on  his  mind  some 
impress  of  the  horror  which  he  imparted  to  others.  And 
thus,  with  him,  art  no  longer  remained  art  for  art's  sake 
only,  —  a  broad  humanitarianism  gradually  entered  into  his 
literary  conceptions. 

At  the  outset  the  novelist  and  the  reformer  were  cer- 
tainly more  or  less  at  variance.  The  cuisine  of  politics  still 
remained  distasteful  to  Zola,  and  he  is  often  found  protest- 
ing that  he  is  merely  a  literary  man  and  does  not  wish  to 
intervene  in  passing  events.  But  as  the  years  elapse  the 
reforming  instinct  becomes  more  and  more  powerful,  gathers 
increased  strength  from  such  works  as  "Germinal"  and 
"La  Terre,"  till  at  last  the  humanitarian  feeling,  triumph- 
ing over  everything  else,  trampling  unrestrained  upon  all 
literary  canons,  finds  voice  in  "Lourdes"  and  "Paris/' 
"Pdcondit6"  and  "Travail,"  and  at  a  supreme  moment 
impels  Zola  to  champion  the  chosen  victim  of  Roman 
Catholic  fanaticism  and  military  infallibility. 

At  an  early  stage  of  his  gradual  transformation  he  is  seen 
defining  the  novelist  as  an  exponent,  an  analyst,  a  dissector 
of  human  life.  His  work  is  to  be  accomplished  in  strict 
accordance  with  science,  and  the  methods  of  the  great 
scientist,  Claude  Bernard,  arej  held  up  to  him  as  examples. 
This  idea  of  "le  Roman  Experimental,"  as  Zola  finally 
called  the  scientific  fiction  he  expounded,  had  long  haunted 
him;  but  when  he  wished  to  give  it  really  adequate  ex- 
pression he  was  momentarily  at  a  loss  as  to  where  he  might 
find  the  most  forcible  and  most  modern  exposition  of  scien- 
tific principles  and  methods.  It  was  his  friend  M.  Yves 


184     tHILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOEMER 

Guyot,  a  many-sided  mm,  then  only  a  journalist,  later  a 
Minister  of  State,  and  now  eminent  as  a  political  economist, 
who  recommended  him  to  study  Claude  Bernard.1  On  that 
study  Zola  based  one  of  the  most  famous  of  his  essays. 
Science,  which  appeals  so  little  to  some  minds,  particu- 
larly literary  minds  of  the  average  calibre,  is  really  the 
greatest  humanitarian  agency  we  possess.  The  man  who 
experiments,  the  man  who  dissects,  does  not  do  so  for 
mere  pleasure;  his  aim  is  the  increase  and  diffusion  of 
knowledge,  the  benefit  of  the  world,  the  advantage  of  his 
fellowmen.  That  which  is  learnt  in  the  laboratory,  the 
workshop,  the  operating  room  is  put  to  use  in  a  thousand 
ways.  In  physiological  and  medical  science  the  work  may 
often  be  very  repulsive,  yet  it  reveals  the  causes  of  many 
flaws  and  ailments,  and  points  to  the  means  of  cure.  A 
similar  aim  became  Zola's  as  he  proceeded  with  his  novels. 
He  made  it  his  purpose  to  inquire  into  all  social  sores,  all 
the  imperfections  and  lapses  of  collective  and  individual 
life  that  seemed  to  him  to  require  remedying.  That  every- 
thing should  be  made  manifest  in  order  that  everything 
might  be  healed,  such  w^s  the  motto  he  adopted. 

Yet  in  the  first  instance  he  did  not  preach,  he  did  not 
denounce ;  he  contented  himself  with  stating  the  facts ;  he 
confined  himself  to  analysis,  dissection,  and  demonstration, 
and  he  used  the  novel  as  his  vehicle,  because  the  novel 
alone  appealed  to  the  great  majority  of  people  to  whom  it 
was  necessary  that  the  facts  should  be  made  patent  if  any 
remedy  were  to  be  applied. 

1  So  stated  by  M.  Yves  Guyot  in  conversation  with  the  writer  and  others 
in  the  autumn  of  1902.    It  ought  to  have  "been  mentioned  that  it  was  M. 
Griiyot  who  engaged  Zola  as  dramatic  critic  of  "  Le  Bien  Public."    See  ante, 
*  156. 


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iDMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEE    185 

But  the  prejudiced,  the  purblind,  and  the  foolish,  the 
hundreds  of  so-called  critics  who  had  glanced  at  his  noyels 
but  had  never  perused  a  line  of  the  essays  in  which  he 
enunciated  his  principles,  responded  by  accusing  him  of  a 
degraded  partiality  for  filth,  of  wallowing  in  mire,  because 
such  was  his  favourite  element.  The  sensation  created  by 
"  L' Assommoir "  had  been  great,  that  which  attended  the 
production  of  "Nana"  was  perhaps  greater. 

Much  of  the  year  1878  was  spent  by  Zola  in  making 
preparations  for  that  book.  Incredible  as  it  may  seem,  his 
critics  have  actually  reproached  him  for  his  previous  igno- 
rance of  the  "successful"  Parisian  courtesan.  His  know- 
ledge of  her  had  certainly  been  limited  to  her  out-door  life ; 
like  others  he  had  seen  her,  elbowed  her  at  the  theatres, 
in  the  Bois,  and  at  other  places  of  public  resort.  That  was 
all.  He  therefore  applied  to  friends  and  acquaintances  for 
information,  Edmond  de  Goncourt,  who  had  repeatedly 
dined  at  the  table  of  La  Paiva l  before  she  became  the  wife 
of  Henckel  von  Donnersmarck,  gave  him  a  variety  of  in- 
formation; Ludovic  HaWvy  initiated  him  into  the  demi- 

1  This  woman  had  an  extraordinary  career.  She  was  of  German  origin, 
her  real  name  being  Theresa  Lachmann,  but  she  was  bom  in  Russia,  and 
first  married  a  French  tailor  of  Moscow,  named  Villoing.  After  eloping  with 
Herz,  the  well-known  pianist,  she  entered  the  Parisian  demi-monde  under  the 
auspices  of  the  notorious  Esther  Guimond.  Finding  herself  in  difficulties 
she  proceeded  to  London,  fascinated  and  half-ruined  a  member  of  an  English 
ducal  house,  returned  to  Paris,  ruined  several  French  nobles  there,  and  ulti- 
mately married  Yiscount  Armijo  de  Paiva  of  the  Portuguese  Legation,  whom 
she  also  ruined  and  who  committed  suicide.  Though  her  beauty,  whieh  had 
been  great,  was  then  fading,  she  captivated  Count  Henckel  von  Donnersmarck, 
a  connection  of  the  Bismarck  family,  and  he  ended  by  marrying  her.  She 
lived  in  a  magnificent  mansion  in  the  Champs  Elyse'es  adorned  by  Baudry, 
Cabanel,  Ger6me,  and  Cl^singer;  and  Girardin,  Gautier,  About,  Ponsard, 
Augier,  Houssaye,  and  Goncourt  were  familiars  of  her  drawing-room.  She 
died  in  1884  on  her  husband's  estate  in  Silesia. 


186      IHiTLV,  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

mondaine  side  of  theatrical  life,  to  which,  given  all  his 
intercourse  with  Hortense  Schneider,  Zulma  Bouffar,  and 
others,  he  was  the  most  competent  of  guides;  men  of 
fashion,  who  had  wasted  their  best  years  and  much  of  their 
money  among  the  harlots  of  the  Second  Empire,  told  him 
tales  of  their  experiences ;  he  visited  the  house  of  one  belle 
impnre  from  basement  to  attic,  and  he  supped  at  the  house 
of  another.  Of  the  lower-class  unfortunate  he  had,  perforce, 
seen  a  good  deal  during  his  bohemian  years  in  the  Quartier 
Latin,  and  all  observers  of  women  of  that  category  are 
aware  that  in  most  cases,  though  they  may  acquire  some 
superficial  polish  on  rising  to  wealth,  their  real  natures 
undergo  little  change. 

Zola's  enemies  naturally  imputed  the  writing  of  "  Nana  " 
to  his  partiality  for  vice  and  scandal;  but  those  who  are 
acquainted  with  *'L'A&sommoir"  will  recognise  that,  in  such 
a  series  as  "  Les  Rougon-Macquart,"  a  study  of  the  courtesan 
was  the  necessary  corollary  of  the  study  on  drink  and  the 
general  degradation  of  the  working  class.  It  is  from  such 
homes  as  those  of  Coupeau  and  Gervaise  that  spring  nine- 
tenths  of  the  unhappy  creatures  so  grimly  denominated 
filks  de  joie.  Nana's  childhood  and  youth  had  already 
been  recounted  in  "  L'Assommoir,"  and  it  was  certain  that 
Zola  would  not  leave  her  there.  How  could  he  picture  the 
degenerescence  of  a  period  if  he  omitted  the  harlot,  who 
had  played — people  hardly  seem  to  recognise  it  nowadays 
— such  a  prominent,  such  a  commanding  part,  during  the 
years  when  Napoleon  III. — dallying  himself  with  La 
Castiglione,  La  Bellanger,  and  a  dozen  others,  while  his 
cousin  Prince  Napoleon  J&r6me  kept  the  notorious  Cora 
Pearl  — had  transformed  the  proud  city  of  Paris  into  the 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOBMER     187 

brothel  of  Europe  ?  Again,  scores  of  Zola's  contemporaries, 
writers  of  various  degrees,  by  trying  to  poetise  the  courtesan, 
had  increased  her  influence  a  hundred-fold,  and  the  time  had 
come  to  check  her  encroachments  by  exhibiting  her  in  her 
true  colours,  with  all  her  vulgarity,  her  greed,  her  degrada- 
tion, her  shamelessness  and  heartlessness. 

In  September,  1879,  when  Zola  had  written  about  half  of 
"  Nana,"  he  arranged  with  M.  Laffitte,  editor  of  "  Le  Voltaire/' 
which  was  then  publishing  his  articles  on  "  scientific  fiction/1 
to  produce  the  story  in  that  newspaper;  and  M.  Laffitte 
at  once  advertised  it  in  a  fashion  worthy  of  Barnum  himself. 
Huge  posters  appeared  on  all  the  walls  of  Paris,  "dis- 
played "  announcements  invaded  the  newspapers,  sandwich 
men  patrolled  the  streets,  ticket-advertisements  were  even 
affixed  to  the  gutta-percha  tubes  of  the  pipe-lights  in  the 
tobacconists*  shops  ;  and,  indeed,  upon  every  side  one  found 
the  imperious  injunction :  Read  Nana  !  Nana  ! !  Nana  !  1 11 
All  this  greatly  vexed  Zola,  who  had  shut  himself  up  at 
MMan  to  finish  the  book,  and  who  did  not  at  all  desire 
to  be  advertised  in  such  an  extravagant  fashion.  To  make 
matters  worse,  the  serial  issue  had  scarcely  commenced 
(October  16,  1879)  when  several  newspapers  began  to 
discuss  the  story,  all  the  quidnuncs  demonstrating  by  A 
plus  B  that  the  opening  chapter  was  not  at  all  such  as  it 
ought  to  be,  and  that  the  work  was  bound  to  prove  a  failure. 
Then,  too,  letters  full  of  suggestions  or  criticism  or  denun- 
ciation rained  upon  Zola  at  M£dan,  putting  his  nerves  to 
the  severest  test.  Nevertheless,  he  worked  on  steadily, 
taking  the  greatest  care  over  even  the  most  trifling  details, 
employing  a  friend  to  obtain  precise  information  on  such 
i  Alexis,  1.  c.,  p.  118. 


188      tMim  ZOLA*   NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER 

matters  as  phaetons  and  tandems,  the  decorations  of  Ma- 
bille,  the  aspect  of  the  rooms  on  the  top-floor  of  the  Grand 
Hotel,  the  view  from  them,  and  the  facial  mask  of  a  woman 
dying  (as  !NTana  died)  from  small-pox.1 

As  the  publication  proceeded  in  "  Le  Voltaire  "  the  com- 
plaints became  more  numerous.  A  good  many  people  pro- 
fessed to  be  shocked ;  Gambetta  presently  complained  to  the 
editor  that  the  story  was  "too  strong";  and  the  editor 
requested  Zola's  permission  to  curtail  or  omit  certain  pas- 
sages. This  was  accorded,  the  latter  half  of  the  work 
appearing  in  "Le  Voltaire"  in  a  bowdlerized  form.  On 
January  2,  1880,  Zola  started  on  the  fourteenth  and  last 
chapter,  and  on  January  7  he  completed  it  "Let  me  tell 
you  a  great  piece  of  news,"  he  wrote  to  a  Mend  that  day, 
"  I  finished  c  Nana '  this  morning.  .  .  ,  What  relief  I  Never 
did  any  previous  work  of  mine  upset  me  as  this  has  done. 
At  present  let  it  be  worth  what  it  may,  it  has  ceased  to 
exist  for  me.  ...  I  write  to  you  in  the  joy  of  deliverance. 
My  last  chapter  seems  to  me  to  be  the  most  weird  and 
successful  thing  I  have  ever  written."2 

1  Mr.  R.  H.  Sherard  in  his  "  $mile  Zola :  a  Biographical  and  Critical  Study," 
London,  1903,  prints  several  of  Zola's  letters  on  the  above  subjects.     The 
following  may  be  given  as  a  specimen :  "Me* dan,  September  18,  1879  :  I  have 
received  your  book  on  small-pox.     That  will  evidently  suffice  for  my  purpose. 
I  will  devise  a  death  mask  by  comparing  the  various  documents.    I  am  very 
much  tempted  to  make  the  disease  black  pox  which,  in  point  of  horror,  is 
the  strangest.    Only  I  admit  that  if  without  taking  too  much,  trouble  you 
could  manage  to  see  the  corpse  of  a  person  who  had  died  of  that  complaint  — 
I  say,  that  is  a  nice  little  task  I  —  you  would  oblige  me  greatly.  ...  In  that 
case  mind  you  supply  full  details  about  the  state  of  the  eyes,  nose  and  mouth, 
giving  me  a  precise  geographical  chart,  from  which,  of  course,  I  should  only 
take  what  I  may  need."    This  suggestion  was  not  acted  upon.    In.  describing 
Nana's  death  Zola  eventually  had  to  rely  on  the  statements  he  found  in 
medical  works. 

2  Sherard,  Z.  c.,  p.  171. 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOKMEB    189 


A  few  weeks  later,  that  is  on  February  15,  " 
appeared  in  "book  form,  the  passages  omitted  from  "Le 
Voltaire"  being  reinstated  in  the  text  Large  orders 
having  been  received  from  various  parts  of  the  world,  M. 
Charpentier  had  ordered  fifty-five  thousand  copies  to  be 
printed;  but  on  the  very  day  of  publication  he  found  it 
necessary  to  order  ten  thousand  more.1  In  the  case  of 
"Nana,"  as  in  that  of  "  L3  Assommoir,"  the  public  gave  no 
heed  to  the  critics,  who,  of  course,  raised  their  customary 
protests.  In  certain  matters  of  detail  their  objections 
were  well  founded.  Zola  had  made  a  few  mistakes  in 
dealing  with  some  of  the  minutice  of  theatrical  and 
turf  life/  and,  as"  Madame  Edmond  Adam  remarked 
in  the  "Nouvelle  Revue"  —  and  as  the  author  himself 
subsequently  admitted  —  Nana  was  shown  accomplishing 
in  few  years  what,  in  actual  life,  would  have  taken  a 
woman  much  longer  to  accomplish.  That,  however,  was 
forced  upon  Zola  by  the  scheme  of  his  series,  the  incidents 
recorded  in  which  had  to  occur  between  the  years  1852  and 
1870.2  When  all  is  said,  taking  "Nana"  in  its  ensemble,  it 
was  certainly  the  most  truthful  picture  ever  traced  of  the 

1  "Fana,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1880,  18mo,  528  pages;  one  hundred  and 
sixty-sixth,  thcmsand  on  sale  in  1893  ;  one  hundred  and  ninety-eighth  thou- 
sand in  1903  ;  some  special  copies  on  Japan,    India,  and  Dutch  papers. 
Illustrated  edition:   Marpon  and  Flammarion,  n.  d.  "but  1882,  large  8vo 
titles,  456  pages,  with  sixty-six  wood  engravings  after  Bertall,  Gill,  Bel- 
lenger,  Olairin,  etc.    A  hundred  copies  printed  oil  Dutch  paper  with  impres- 
sions of  the  engravings  on  India  paper,  and  a  special  frontispiece  showing 
Nana  on  a  sofa.    The  ordinary  copies  of  the  illustrated  edition  were  priced  at 
6  francs,  "but  were  also  sold  very  largely  in  fifty-seven  parts  at  10  centimes. 
From  1882  to  the  present  time  (  1903  )  over  two  hundred  thousand  copies  of  the 
illustrated  edition  have  been  sold,  bringing  the  total  sales  of  the  work  (  apart 
from  translations)  to  nearly  half  a  million  copies. 

2  See  his  explanations  on  this  subject  in  the  preface  to  E.  A.  Yizetelly's 
translation  of  "Le  Doeteur  Pascal,"  London,  Chatto,  1893  et  seq. 


190     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOEMER 

so-called  Parisian  world  of  pleasure  in  Imperial  times.  Of 
course  the  boot  was  denounced  as  immoral.  The  Parisian 
smart  set  shrieked  loudly;  many  a  Boulevardian  journal- 
ist, whose  looseness  of  life  was  notorious,  perorated  in  club 
and  caf6  respecting  the  amazing  depravity  of  that  man 
Zola ;  and  in  addition  to  abusive  newspaper  articles,  there 
again  came  scurrilous  pamphlets  and  parodies  after  the 
fashion  of  those  which  had  followed  "  L'Assommoir." 

Zola  did  not  reply  immediately ;  but  in  1881,  when 
**  Nana  "  had  been  dramatised,  he  contributed  a  few  articles 
to  "Le  Figaro"  on  the  subject,  besides  penning  a  longer 
paper  on  "  Immorality  in  Literature,"  in  which  he  contended 
that  writers  of  the  Idealist  school  made  vice  all  roses  and 
rapture,  whereas  the  Naturalists  made  it  repulsive.  And  he 
was  absolutely  convinced,  he  said,  that  far  more  heads  had 
been  turned,  more  young  men  and  girls  and  women  led 
into  dangerous  courses,  by  the  works  of  George  Sand,  Octave 
Feuillet,  Barbey  d*Aur£nlly,  and  even  Sir  Walter  Scott,  than 
by  the  writings  of  Flaubert,  Balzac,  Goncourt,  and  their  fol- 
lowers. As  for  "  Nana,"  said  he,  it  had  given  offence  be- 
cause it  was  a  true  picture,  and  therefore  spoilt  the  pleasure 
of  the  mveurs  of  Paris,  who  wished  to  see  everything  couleur 
de  rose  beneath  a  cloud  of  poudre-de-riz?- 

In  1880,  after  the  publication  of  "Nana,"  Zola  wrote 
several  short  stories.  He  had  published  one,  "  Nais  Micou- 
lin,"  in  a  paper  called  "  La  K&f orme/*  towards  the  close  of 
the  previous  year;  and  he  now  gave  "La  F§te  &  Coqrieville," 
"LTnondation,"  and  "Nantas,"  to  "Le  Yoltaire,"  to  which 
journal  -he  also  contributed  some  papers  on  Th^ophile  Gau~ 
tier,  Ste.-Beuve,  and  others.  But  a  better  known  publica- 

1  "  Documents  Litteraires,"  p.  375  &  ^. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEB     191 

tion  in  which,  he  was  interested  appeared  during  the  spring. 
This  was  the  collection  of  stories  called  "Les  Soirees  de 
M&lan,"1  to  which  Zola  contributed  his  well-known  tale, 
"  I/ Attaque  du  Moulin,"  which  he  had  previously  published 
in  Eussia,  and  which  subsequently  provided  his  friend  M. 
Alfred  Bruneau  with  the  subject  for  an  opera.  Nowadays 
in  its  form  as  a  story  "  L' Attaque  du  Moulin n  has  become 
a  reading  book  in  many  French  and  English  schools. 

As  mentioned  in  a  previous  chapter,  five  younger  writ- 
ers, Alexis,  Huysmans,  Maupassant,  C4ard,  and  Hennique, 
had  gathered  round  Zola,  whose  literary  views  they  largely 
shared.3  Each  of  them  contributed  to  the  so-called  "  Soirees 
de  M4dan,"  the  preface  of  which  stated:  "The  following 
stories  have  been  published  previously,  some  in  France, 
others  abroad.  It  has  seemed  to  us  that  they  have  sprung 
from  one  and  the  same  idea,  that  their  philosophy  is  identi- 
cal. "We  therefore  unite  them.  We  are  prepared  for  all  the 
attacks,  the  bad  faith,  and  the  ignorance  of  which  current 
criticism  has  already  given  us  so  many  examples.  Our  only 
concern  has  been  to  affirm  publicly  what  are  really  our 
friendships  and  our  literary  tendencies." 

At  that  time,  of  the  six:  writers  responsible  for  that  pref- 
ace, only  Zola  had  acquired  a  position ;  and  such  a  solemn 
manifesto  seemed  therefore  somewhat  presumptuous,  the 
more  particularly  as,  apart  from  Zola's  tale,  the  only  other 

1  The  first  edition  (Charpentier,  18mo,  301  pages )  was  accompanied  by 
ten  copies  on  India  and  fifty  on  Dutch  paper.  There  was  a  special  edition  in 
1890,  small  8vo,  807  pages,  six  portraits  etched  by  Fernand  Desmoulin,  and 
six  illustrations  etched  by  Muller  after  Jeanniot.  Of  this  edition  one  copy  was 
printed  on  Japan  paper  with  three  sets  of  the  etchings ;  one  copy  on  parchment 
with  two  sets  of  the  etchings  before  lettering;  and  sixteen  on  Dutch  paper 
with  two  sets  of  the  etchings,  both  before  and  after  lettering. 

3  See  ante,  p.  162v 


192     IfflOQLB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

of  real  merit  in  the  book  was  Guy  de  Maupassant's.  For 
him,  so  far  as  the  book-reading  public  was  concerned,  "  Les 
Soirees  de  M&lan  "  proved  virtually  a  dfbut,  whose  promise 
his  subsequent  writings  confirmed.  "  Boule  de  Suif,"  as  he 
called  his  contribution  to  the  volume,  was  the  tale  of  a 
woman,  who  is  shown  sacrificing  herself,  during  the  Franco- 
German  War,  for  the  convenience  and  safety  of  others. 
They  entreat  her  in  that  sense,  and  yet  as  soon  as  they 
are  free  they  spurn  her  and  abandon  her  to  her  shame. 
This  woman,  like  the  other  people  figuring  in  the  story, 
actually  lived,1  and  indeed  it  would  be  difficult  to  find  half 
a  dozen  really  imaginary  characters  in  all  Guy  de  Maupas- 
sant's tales.  He  carried  the  passion  for  personalities  even 
farther  than  Alphonsa  Daudet  did,  and  there  exists,  it  is 
said,  a  set  of  his  writings,  on  the  margins  of  which  he 
himself  wrote  the  real  names  of  almost  every  person  and 
locality  he  ever  described.  One  may  conclude  that  he  was 
perhaps  a  more  genuine  Naturalist  than  Zola,  his  work 
being  invariably  based  on  "human  documents,"  the  fruit 
of  personal  observation  and  experience.  This  occasionally 
tended  to  make  his  art  unduly  photographic;  but,  at  the 
same  time,  as  is  well  known,  his  literary  style  was  excel- 

1  Her  real  name  was  Adrienne  Legay  and  she  really  bore  the  nickname  of 
**  Ball  of  Tallow."  She  was  of  peasant  extraction,  and  was  born  near  Fecamp 
about  1850.  Coming  to  Eouen,  where  she  became  the  mistress  of  a  cavalry 
officer  and  later  of  a  manufacturer  of  cotton  goods,  she  at  one  time  kept 
a  small  hosiery  shop,  at  another  a  little  cafe".  Finally,  after  making  a 
precarious  liTing  as  a  fortune-teller,  she  committed  suicide  at  Eouen  in 
August,  1892.  She  often  declared  to  the  literary  men  who  became  ac- 
quainted with  her  that  she  herself  gave  Maupassant  the  idea  of  his  story 
by  telling  him  an  adventure  of  hers,  which,  however,  had  not  resulted  in  the 
manner  he  described ;  and  she  accused  him  of  having  pilloried  her  in  a  spirit 
of  revenge  for  having  rejected  his  suit  when  he  was  a  penniless  hobbledehoy 
at  Boueru 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER    193 

lent,  and  from  that  standpoint  some  of  Ms  tales  are  un- 
doubtedly masterpieces  of  their  kind. 

Unfortunately  there  was  insanity  in  Guy  de  Maupassant's 
family,  which  was  old,  of  good  nobility,  but  limited  means. 
His  father,  who  had  been  a  painter  and  had  played  a 
prominent  part  in  founding  a  famous  Paris  art  club,  had 
died  in  a  lunatic  asylum.  The  same  fate  befel  his  brother ; 
and,  according  to  some  accounts,  there  was  insanity  on  his 
mother's  side  also.  In  any  case,  from  birth  onward  a 
dreadful  threat  hung  over  Guy  de  Maupassant,  and  the  life 
he  led  from  the  time  he  became  his  own  master  was  not 
calculated  to  ward  off  the  danger.  He  was  a  man  of  the 
strongest  passions,  a  beau  male,  as  the  French  say;  and 
women  began  the  work  which  absinthe,  opium,  and  morphia 
completed.  At  last,  still  young  in  years,  at  the  height  of 
his  celebrity,  he  attempted  his  life,  and  was  only  saved 
from  immediate  death  to  languish  awhile  in  an  asylum. 
One  cannot  think  of  him,  as  of  some  others,  without  feeling 
the  force  of  the  contention  that  very  little  may  at  times 
separate  genius  from  insanity. 

Immediately  "  Les  Soirdes  de  M£dan  "  appeared,  its  con- 
tributors were  chaffed  by  the  newspapers  for  attributing 
undue  importance  to  themselves ;  and  Zola  was  said  to  be 
bringing  up  these  young  men  in  leading-strings  for  the 
express  advancement  of  his  literary  theories.  A  rather 
acrimonious  controversy  ensued,  Zola  repeatedly  declaring 
that  he  was  not,  and  did  not  wish  to  be,  a  chef  d'Scole,  and 
that  those  with  whom  he  was  associated  were  his  friends  and 
not  his  disciples.  But  the  discussion  suddenly  ceased,  for 
the  literary  world  of  Paris  was  startled  by  the  unexpected 
news  of  Gustave  Flaubert's  death  at  Croisset,  near  Eouen. 

13 


194     *MTTJR  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

During  the  previous  Easter  (March,  1880)  the  veteran 
author  had  received  Daudet,  Zola,  Charpentier,  Maupassant, 
and  Goncourt  at  his  country  place,  and  Groncourt  has  related 
in  his  "Journal"  how  thoroughly  they  enjoyed  Flaubert's 
paternal  hospitality,  and  how  on  Easter  Monday  they  lin- 
gered in  Rouen,  ferreting  among  old  curiosity  shops,  playing 
billiards,  and  planning  a  diner  fin  at  the  principal  hotel 
When,  however,  they  wished  to  give  their  order,  consterna- 
tion fell  on  them :  it  was  a  holiday ;  all  the  provision  shops 
were  closed,  the  hotel  larder  was  virtually  empty,  and  the 
diner  fin  resolved  itself  into  veal  cutlets  and  cheese.  That 
amusing  experience  was  still  in  Zola's  mind  when,  on 
May  8,  he  received  at  M6dan  this  laconic  telegram  from 
Maupassant :  "  Flaubert  dead."  Dead  —  and  they  had  left 
Mm  so  gay  and  so  full  of  life  and  health !  Zola  was  pro- 
foundly attached  to  Flaubert,  and  the  tidings  quite  un- 
manned him.  On  May  11  he  started  for  Le  Croisset  and 
attended  the  "funeral,  of  which  he  has  left  a  deeply  interest- 
ing account,  instinct  with  all  the  grief  of  one  who  has  lost 
a  near  and  dear  friend.  In  these  later  years  various  English 
versions  of  some  of  Flaubert's  books  have  been  published, 
but,  so  far  as  the  present  writer  is  aware,  no  editor  or 
publisher  has  thought  of  utilising  Zola's  account  of  Flaubert 
as  an  introduction  to  a  translation.  Yet  that  account  is 
perhaps  Zola's  best  work  as  an  essayist,  —  full  of  interest, 
and  much  of  it  admirable  in  tone  and  style.  One  may  say, 
too,  that  anybody  wishing  to  form  an  accurate  opinion  of 
G-ustave  Flaubert,  both  as  a  writer  and  as  a  man,  cannot 
do  better  than  read  the  hundred  pages  which  Zola  devoted 
to  him  in  his  "Romanciers  Naturalistes." 

But  another  blow  fell  on  Zola  in  1880.    In  October  his 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      195 

mother,  long  ailing  and  crippled,  passed  away  at  M4dan. 
Various  painful  circumstances  attended  the  death  and  the 
funeral;  and  Goncourt,  writing  at  the  end  of  the  year, 
pictures  Zola  as  having  become  a  perfect  hypochondriac 
in  consequence  of  this  loss.  He  complained  of  all  sorts  of 
ailments,  kidney  disease  and  palpitations  of  the  heart,  talked 
of  his  own  death  as  being  near  at  hand,  and  feared  that  he 
would  not  have  time  to  finish  anything.  Briefly, "  he  was 
filling  the  world  with  his  name,  his  books  were  selling  by 
the  hundred  thousand,  no  other  author,  perhaps,  had  ever 
created  such  a  stir,  and  yet  he  felt  profoundly  miserable."1 

About  the  time  when  his  mother  died  his  articles  on 
"  scientific  fiction,"  previously  issued,  some  in  "  Le  Voltaire  " 
and  others  in  the  "  Viestnik  Yevropi,"  were  republished  in 
a  volume.2  One  of  them  had  greatly  offended  Laffitte,  the 
editor  of  "Le  Voltaire,"  who  being  mixed  up  in  sundry 
transactions  with  some  of  Gambetta's  satellites,  resented 
Zola's  caustic  allusions  to  them.  Nor  was  an  article  on 
some  scandal  occasioned  by  the  erotic  publications  of  the 
"  Gil  Bias "  to  his  liking.  He  ended  by  accusing  his  con- 
tributor of  defending  obscenity  and  of  treating  public  men 
with  disrespect.  A  rupture  followed.  Zola  castigated 
Laffitte  in  a  foot-note  to  one  of  the  incriminated  articles 
when  he  reissued  them  in  a  book,  and  turned  to  "Le 
Figaro,"  which  gave  him  all  liberty  to  defend  his  ideas. 
He  then  began  a  series  of  articles,  republished  in  a  volume 
the  following  year  under  the  title  of  "Une  Campagne."3 

1  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  YoL  VI,  p.  127. 

2  "Le  Eoman  Experimental,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1880,  18mo,  vii-416 
pages.     This  volume,  in  which  the  whole  theory  of  Naturalistic  fiction  is 
expounded,  has  been  reprinted  several  times  with  the  mention :  "  Nouvelle 
Edition." 

8  "Une  Campagne,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1881,  18mo,  x-408  pages. 


196     tlULE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEE 

They  dealt  with  a  great  variety  of  subjects,  political,  liter- 
ary, and  social,  and  show  how  wide  was  the  interest  which 
Zola  took  in  the  affairs  of  his  time.  One  of  them  on  Victor 
Hugo  and  his  poem  "L'Ane"  caused  a  sensation,  for  most 
people  deemed  it  positive  sacrilege  to  attack  the  greatest 
literary  glory  of  the  age.  The  uproar  was  even  heard 
across  the  channel,  and  Mr.  Swinburne,  who  admired 
"L'Ane,"  and  held  Zola  to  be  mere  "stench,"  manifested 
particular  indignation.  But  a  quarter  of  a  century  has 
elapsed  since  then,  and  it  is  a  question  whether  many 
people  would  be  inclined  nowadays  to  regard  "L'Ane"  as 
a  great  poem.  In  a  sense,  Zola's  attack  was  unkind,  but 
it  was  essentially  one  on  fetish  worship,  on  the  habit  of 
kvishing  indiscriminate  praise  on  everything,  good,  bad, 
or  indifferent,  that  might  come  from  the  pen  of  a  writer  of 
eminence.  Let  us  remember  that  there  has  never  yet  been 
a  poet  of  whom  one  might  say  his  every  line  is  a  master- 
piece. Homer  nodded,  so  did  Hugo,  and  so  has  even  Mr. 
Swinburne  himself. 

Some  of  Zola's  articles  in  "Le  Figaro"  dealt  with  his 
own  work;  others  with  that  of  his  friends  Goncourt,  Huys- 
mans,  Maupassant,  and  Daudet;  but  several  were  political 
—  attacks  on  Gambetta  and  so  forth,  written  in  the  same 
spirit  which  had  prompted  the  article  on  Hugo.  Gambetta, 
as  will  be  remembered,  had  now  (1880-1881)  reached  the 
crisis  of  his  life.  The  Tunisian  debt  scandal,  the  frauds 
of  the  Union  G6n&ale,  —  a  Catholic  bank  established  with 
the  papal  blessing  for  the  purpose  of  wresting  financial 
power  from  the  Jews,  —  were  associated  by  some  folk  with 
his  "great  ministry."  Besides,  his  proposals  for  changing 
the  electoral  system,  his  patronage  of  reactionary  generals, 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      197 

able  men,  it  must  be  admitted,  divided  the  Republican 
party.  He  was  accused,  too,  of  acting  as  a  drag,  of  checking 
the  progress  of  the  democracy,  of  sacrificing  principles  to 
personal  interest.  He  had  certainly  become  somewhat 
sluggish  so  far  as  measures  were  concerned,  and,  as  Zola 
put  it,  he  seemingly  imagined  that  orations  sufficed  for 
everything.  "It  was  not  his  actions  which  gave  him  his 
position,  but  his  phrases,"  Zola  wrote.  "He  has  always 
defeated  his  adversaries  by  phrases.  He  has  acquired 
authority  by  phrases.  ...  If  there  be  any  question  of 
taking  a  forward  step  he  makes  a  speech.  If  there  be  a 
question  of  warding  off  a  danger  he  makes  a  speech.  If 
there  be  a  question  of  making  his  authority  felt  he  again 
makes  a  speech.  He  speechifies  without  a  break,  and  all 
over  the  country."1 

Later,  after  Gambetta  had  come  into  conflict  with  Ms 
constituents,  and  the  elections  of  1881  had  shown  that  the 
so-called  Opportunist  cause  was  seriously  compromised, 
Zola  returned  to  the  attack,  and  one  may  the  more  appro- 
priately quote  a  passage  from  his  article  called  "  Drunken 
Slaves/'  as  it  shows  how  deftly  he  profited  by  an  oppor- 
tunity to  defend  Ms  literary  cause  while  dealing  with  a 
political  subject.  Before  giving  that  passage,  however,  it 
is  as  well  to  explain  that  Gambetta,  having  encountered  a 
hostile  reception  at  an  electoral  meeting  at  Charonne,  had 
completely  lost  his  head.  Threatening  his  adversaries 
(all  working-men)  with  his  walking  stick  he  shouted  to 
them  furiously :  "  Silence,  you  squallers !  silence,  you 
brawlers!  ,  .  .  You  pack  of  drunken  slaves,  I  will  track 
you  to  your  lairs  I "  And  as  if  this  were  not  sufficient,  his 
1  "Une  Campagne,"  Gambetta,  p.  105. 


198    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER 

newspaper,  "La  K^publique  !Fran§aise,"  added  in  its  next 
issue  such  choice  epithets  as:  "Cowards,  incapables,  pros- 
titutes* bullies,  jail-birds,  and  pot-house  loafers."  All  who 
might  not  vote  for  the  great  man  having  been  thus  stigma- 
tised in  advance,  it  might  be  assumed  when  Gambetta,  in 
lieu  of  his  usual  great  majority,  polled  only  9,404  votes 
against  8,799,  that  about  half  the  electorate  was  given  over 
to  drink,  crime,  and  depravity.  Taking  this  as  his  text 
Zola  wrote  as  follows: 

"  The  figures  on  either  side  are  nearly  equal,  so  it  is  established 
that  at  Belleville  and  Charonne  one  of  every  two  citizens  is  never 
sober.  *  .  .  Yes,  one  half  of  the  masses  is  composed  of  brawlers, 
drunkards,  and  cowards.  M.  Gambetta  said  to  them :  *  We  will 
see  which  side  is  the  most  numerous ' ;  and  they  have  seen.  Of 
20,000  citizens  10,000  are  drunken  slaves  .  .  .  10,000  drunken 
slaves !  The  figures  make  me  thoughtful.  I  remember  a  novelist 
who  wrote  a  novel  called  *  L'Assommoir/  It  was  a  conscientious 
study  of  the  ravages  caused  by  drink  among  the  working  classes 
of  Paris*  It  was  instinct  with  pity  and  affection,  it  solicited 
mercy  for  womanhood  and  for  childhood,  it  showed  labour  van- 
quished by  sloth  and  alcohol,  it  begged  for  air  and  light  and 
instruction  for  the  unhappy  poor,  more  social  comfort,  and  less 
political  agitation.  Now  do  you  know  in  what  fashion  M, 
Gambetta's  friends  and  newspapers  greeted  that  book?  They 
denounced  it  as  an  evil  action,  a  crime.  They  dragged  its  author 
through  the  mire.  .  .  .  Pamphlets  did  not  suffice  them,  they 
even  delivered  lectures,  and  declared  publicly  that  the  author 
had  insulted  the  people  of  Paris.  They  would  have  hanged  him 
had  they  been  able,  in  the  hope  that  by  so  doing  they  might 
secure  a  hundred  additional  votes  at  the  next  elections.  Tes,  it 
was  so.  M.  Gambetta's  friends  and  newspapers  were  then  all 
tenderness  for  the  people.  M.  Gambetta  had  invariably  secured 
a  large  majority  at  Belleville,  and  it  was  consequently  impossible 
that  there  could  be  a  single  tippler  among  those  who  dwelt  on 
the  sacred  mount  of  the  democracy  .  .  .  What !  a  paltry  novelist 


fi&OLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER     199 

dared  to  insinuate  that  there  were  dram-shops  in  the  faubourgs/ 
The  man  lied,  he  insulted  M.  Gambetta's  electors,  he  could  only 
be  a  scoundrel.  To  the  cess-pool  with  him,  sweep  him  away! 
And  all  the  hounds  who  were  waiting  for  their  master  to  toss 
them  a  hone,  all  the  curs  who  lived  on  the  crumbs  from  his  table, 
executed  his  orders,  and  sprang,  snarling,  after  the  unlucky 
writer.  .  .  .  Ah !  I  laugh.  There  suddenly  comes  a  change.  .  .  . 
The  masses,  whose  evolution  never  ceases,  grow  tired  of  M. 
Gambetta,  accuse  him  of  acting  contrary  to  his  programme,  of 
seeking  personal  enjoyment,  of  waxing  fat  in  the  seat  of  power 
and  keeping  none  of  his  most  express  promises,  .  .  .  And  on  the 
day  when  they  hoot  him,  he  is  maddened  by  rage,  he  forgets  that 
the  Eancs  and  the  Floquets  have  vouched  for  the  temperance  of 
Belleville,  and  he  furiously  calls  the  electors  drunken  slaves !  All 
brawlers,  and  all  sots  ! 

"  Now  the  author  of  *  L'Assommoir  *  had  not  insulted  them.  He 
had  never  called  them  squallers  or  cowards,  nor,  in  particular,  had 
he  threatened  to  track  them  to  their  lairs.  ...  He  was  less  severe  : 
he  pitied  them.  .  .  .  Leave  the  literary  men  in  peace  then,  you 
political  gentlemen,  you  majestic  humbugs,  who  prate  with  your 
tongues  in  your  cheeks,  and  yet  wish  to  be  respected !  You  can 
see  now  how  shameful  it  was  to  heap  insults  upon  a  peaceable 
writer  whose  one  concern  was  truth,  to  hunt  him  down  as  if  he 
had  been  a  common  malefactor,  and  this  solely  by  way  of  electoral 
advertisement ;  for  directly  an  obstacle  is  offered  to  your  own 
ambition,  you  rush  upon  the  masses  to  suppress  them,  whereas 
the  novelist  only  spoke  of  curing  them.  .  .  .  And  you,  good 
people,  go  and  vote  for  all  those  humbugs  who,  so  long  as  you 
work  for  their  benefit,  promise  to  give  you  jam !  You  are  great, 
you  are  noble,  and  if  a  passer-by  ventures  to  advise  you  to 
work,  those  humbugs  declare  it  to  be  sacrilege,  and  hasten  to 
immolate  him  before  you,  to  prove  to  you  that  you  are  indeed 
perfect.  But  on  the  day  when  you  refuse  to  be  duped  any 
longer,  when  you  claim  the  jam  tjiey  have  so  often  promised, 
they  turn  round  on  you  and  insult  you,  call  you  drunken  slaves, 
and  threaten  to  have  you  shot  down  in  your  lairs !  With  a 
fine  show  of  indignation  they  formerly  denied  that  My-Boots 
existed ;  but,  all  at  once,  if  they  are  to  be  credited,  it  is  actually 


200      6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMER 
Mj-Boots  who  reigns  as  King  over  a  Belleville  of  brawlers  and 


The  foregoing  extracts  will  give  some  idea  of  the  passion- 
ate vigour  which  Zola  occasionally  displayed  in  controversy. 
To  some  readers  it  may  seem  beside  the  mark  to  dwell  at 
length  upon  a  series  of  newspaper  articles  like  "  Une  Oam- 
pagne/*  but  it  is  in  such  writings,  more  than  in  the  majority 
of  his  novels,  that  one  finds  the  real  Zola  with  his  superb 
confidence  in  himself,  his  disregard  for  conventionalities, 
and  his  glowing  passion  for  truth  and  rectitude.  His  pen 
was  certainly  not  always  so  virulent  as  in  the  passages  one 
has  quoted,  but  it  was  almost  invariably  incisive,  and  when 
treating  sociological  subjects  it  showed  that,  however  im- 
personal Ms  novels  might  be,  his  heart  really  bled  at  the 
thought  of  the  degradation  he  described  in  them.  Looking 
back,  it  seems  extraordinary  that  for  so  many  years  his 
critics,  and  particularly  foreign  ones,  and  among  them  nota- 
bly those  of  England  and  America,  should  have  persisted 
in  the  ridiculous  assertion  that  if  he  pictured  filth,  it  was 
solely  in  order  to  pander  to  readers  of  gross  instincts. 
His  articles,  his  declarations,  his  explanations,  were  all 
before  the  world,  and  easily  accessible  ;  but  through  care- 
lessness, or  laziness,  or  ignorance,  the  great  majority  of 
English  and  American  critics  never  turned  to  them,  and 
the  legend  of  the  filthy  Zola,  whose  favourite  habitat  was 
the  muck  heap  or  the  cesspool,  spread  upon  all  sides. 

The  humanitarian  purpose,  the  reforming  instinct  that 
is  to  be  found  in  Zola,  appears  clearly  in  some  of  the 

1  "Tine  Campagne,**  Abbreviated  from  the  article  entitled  "Esclaves 
Ivres,"  p,  362  et  ««£.  Headers  of  "I/Assommoir"  will  remember  that  the 
bibulous  "  My-Boots,"  referred  to  above,  is  one  of  its  principal  characteri. 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEB      201 

articles  contained  in  "  Une  I  Campagne."  The  meaning  of 
"  L'Assommoir "  is  indicated  in  the  passages  that  have  been 
quoted  here,  and  light  is  thrown  on  some  of  his  subse- 
quent works,  such  as  "  Nana "  and  "  Pot-Bouille,"  by  the 
papers  entitled:  "The  Harlot  on  the  Stage,"  "How  the 
Girls  grow  up,"  "Adultery  in  the  Middle  Classes,"  "  Virtuous 
"Women,"  and  "Divorce  and  Literature.*'  Some  of  those 
articles  were  written  apropos  of  the  performance  of  "  Nana," 
which  was  dramatised  by  M.  Busnach  in  conjunction  with 
Zola  (whose  name,  however,  did  not  appear  on  the  bills) 
and  produced  at  the  Ambigu  on  January  29,  1881.  Zola 
tells  us  there  had  been  no  little  trouble  with  the  theatrical 
censors,  who,  when  the  play  was  submitted  to  them  in 
manuscript,  deleted  the  word  "  night1*  wherever  it  appeared, 
and  wished  to  strike  out  in  its  entirety  the  chief  scene 
between  Nana  and  Count  Muffat  —  a  scene  of  temptation 
such  as  had  been  given  in  a  score  of  earlier  plays.  What 
particularly  alarmed  the  censors,  according  to  Zola,  was 
Nana's  consent,  the  "yes"  with  which  the  scene  ended; 
they  wished  to  substitute  some  such  answer  as,  "  Well,  we 
will  see,"  which  would  have  been  ridiculous. 

Edmond  de  G-oncourt  says  that  the  audience  at  the  first 
performance  was  on  the  whole  favourably  inclined;  but 
Zola  points  out  that  it  was  composed  of  two  distinct 
elements,  on  one  hand  the  literary  men,  friendly  or  inimi- 
cal, who  came  to  judge  the  play,  and  on  the  other  the. 
faded  harlots  of  Paris,  the  white-gloved  bullies,  the  men 
of  pleasure  and  finance  who  had  sunk  to  the  streets, 
in  fact  all  the  characters  that  figured  in  the  play  itself, 
multiplied  fifty  times  over.  And  these  looked  and  listened 
with  pale  faces,  sneering  at  the  representation  of  their  own 


202    SIMILE  ZOLA*  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

depravity.  However,  there  was  considerable  applause  when 
the  play  ended;  and  Zola  and  Busnach  received  the  con- 
gratulations of  their  friends  in  the  manager's  private  room, 
where  Madame  Zola,  suddenly  turning  towards  her  husband, 
scolded  him  for  having  failed  to  order  any  supper  to  cele- 
brate the  happy  event.  "My  dear,"  Zola  answered,  re- 
membering, no  doubt,  the  supper  intended  to  celebrate 
the  success  of  "  Le  Bouton  de  Bose,"  which  had  become  a 
fiasco,  "I'm  superstitious,  you  know,  and  I'm  convinced 
that  if  I  had  ordered  a  supper  the  piece  would  have 
failed."1 

It  was  attacked  by  the  critics  on  the  morrow,  some  com- 
plaining that  they  had  been  imposed  upon,  that  they  had 
been  led  to  expect  a  masterpiece  of  revolutionary  audacity, 
and  that  only  a  repugnant  play,  base  and  crapulous  in  its 
fidelity  to  life,  had  been  offered  them.  Others,  of  course, 
protested  against  the  exhibition  of  the  harlot  on  the  stage ; 
and  to  them  Zola  responded  that  he  was  by  no  means 
the  first  to  set  her  there.  He  recalled  Victor  Hugo,  with 
*  Marion  Delorme"  and  "La  Esmeralda  "  ;  Dumas  jils,  with 
"  La  Dame  aux  Camillas" ;  Barrfere  and  Thiboust  with  "  Les 
Filles  de  Marbre,"  and  Emile  Augier  with  "Le  Mariage 
d'Olympe."  They  and  their  imitators  had  lied,  however; 
they  had  pictured  harlots  such  as  had  never  existed  since 
the  world  was  world,  and  his  sin  was  that  he  had  done 
his  best  to  portray  such  a  creature  as  she  really  was. 
"Besides,"  he  added,  "it  seems  to  me  cowardice  to  shun 
certain  problems  under  the  pretext  that  they  disturb  one. 
That  is  turning  egotism  and  hypocrisy  into  a  system.  Let 
be,  people  say,  let  us  cover  up  vice  and  celebrate  virtue 

1  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  VI,  p.  134 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     203 

even  when  it  is  not  to  be  found.  ...  I  have  a  different 
idea  of  morality.  It  is  not  served  by  rhetorical  declamation 
but  by  an  accurate  knowledge  of  facts.  And  therein  lies 
that  Naturalism  which  provokes  so  much  laughter,  and 
at  which  so  much  mud  is  foolishly  thrown/* 

The  actress  who  played  the  rdle  of  Nana  was  L6ontine 
Massin.  Fair,  with  a  coaxing  glance,  a  sensual  mouth  and 
nose,  and  a  superb  figure,  she  quite  looked  the  part,  in  spite 
of  her  forty  years;  and,  truth  to  tell,  she  had  in  some 
measure  lived  it.  She  had  also  long  been  known  to  the 
stage  in  minor  rdles ;  and  now,  yielding  to  her  natural 
instincts,  she  sprang  to  the  front,  impersonating  Nana  with 
a  power  and  a  truth  which  stirred  one  deeply.  All  Paris 
flocked  to  see  her.  But  she  was  not  content  with  acting. 
She  became  Nana  in  reality,  and  her  chosen  victim  was  the 
manager  of  the  Ambigu,  Henri  Chabrillat,  a  bright,  talented, 
gallant  man,  who  had  shown  Ms  bravery  in  the  Franco- 
German  War,  and  his  literary  skill  in  half  a  dozen  novels. 
Unhappily  he  was  carried  away  by  a  mad  infatuation  for 
the  temptress;  as  fast  as  money  poured  into  his  coffers 
he  squandered  it  upon  her;  embarrassment  followed,  and 
when  the  end  came  he  put  a  pistol  to  his  head.  Never, 
perhaps,  has  the  truth  of  a  play,  and  the  disregard  of  the 
passions  for  the  most  obvious  lessons,  been  exemplified 
more  terribly.  Amid  the  uproar  which  ensued  La  Massin 
vanished,  Paris  for  a  week  remained  lost  in  amazement, 
and  then,  as  always  happens,  the  tragedy  was  forgotten. 

In  that  same  year,  1881,  Zola  republished  in  book  form 
most  of  the  biographical  and  literary  papers  which  he  had 
written  of  recent  years.  "Le  Roman  Experimental"  had 
led  the  way  in  1880,  and  now  there  came  four  more 


204     MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

volumes :  first  *'  Les  Romanciers  Naturalistes," l  a  series  of 
papers  on  Balzac,  Stendhal,  Flaubert,  Daudet,  and  the 
Goncourts,  to  which  was  added  the  much  discussed  review 
of  contemporary  novelists ;  secondly,  "  Documents  Litt£- 
raires:  Etudes  et  Portraits,"2  in  which  will  be  found 
papers  on  Chateaubriand,  Hugo,  Musset,  Gautier,  George 
Sand,  Dumas  fls,  Ste.-Beuve,  contemporary  poets  such  as 
Leconte  de  Lisle,  Baudelaire,  Banville,  Oatulle  Mend&s, 
Bierx,  Anatole  France,  Mallarm^,  H&r^dia,  Copp^e,  Bouchor, 
Richepin,  and  Sully-Prudhomme ;  and  critics  such  as  Taine, 
Pontmartin,  Levallois,  Babou,  Barbey  d'Aur^villy,  and 
Sarcey,  with  some  curious  notes  on  Buloz,  the  founder  of 
the  famous  "  R&vue  des  Deux-Mondes."  Next  there  came 
"Le  Naturalisme  au  Th^Htre,"  divided  into  two  sections, 
theory  and  example;  the  former  including  papers  on  the 
special  gift  alleged  to  be  necessary  in  all  writers  for  the 
stage,  on  acting,  costumes,  scenery,  government  subventions, 
eta ;  and  the  latter  running  through  the  whole  scale  of 
the  playwright's  art,  tragedy,  drama,  comedy,  vaudeville 
and  pantomime,  with  selections  from  the  many  articles 
which  Zola  had  written  as  a  dramatic  critic  between  1876 
and  1880.  Finally  there  was  a  fourth  volume  entitled, 
"Nos  Auteurs  Dramatiques,"  in  which  plays  by  Hugo, 
Augier,  Dumas  fils>  Sardou,  Labiche,  Hal&vy,  Gondinet, 
Pailleron,  D'Ennery,  Barri&re,  Feuillet,  and  others,  were 
analysed  and  discussed,3 

1  Charpentier,  18mo,  338  pagea.    Ten  copi«s  on  Dutch  paper.    The  con- 
tents first  appeared  partly  in  the    "Viestnik  Yevropi,"  partly  in  "Le 
Yoltaire." 

2  Charpentier,  18mo,  427  pagei.    Ten  copiea  on  Dutch  paper.    The  con- 
tents of  thisrolume  also  appeared  originally  in  the  "Viestnik  Yevropi." 

*  Both  volumes  mentioned  above  were  issued  by  Charpentier  uniform  with 
the  previous  one.    Dumas  fib,  whom  Zola  criticised  with  great  severity  in 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       205 

To  some  of  the  theories  set  forth  in  those  four  volumes 
it  may  be  necessary  to  refer  when  we  survey  Zola's  work 
generally.  The  books  have  been  mentioned  here  because 
they  were  issued  at  the  period  we  have  now  reached,  and 
because  it  is  advisable  that  the  reader  should  realise  how 
energetic,  how  zealous  Zola  always  was,  how  great  was  his 
versatility,  and  how  strenuous  his  life.  This  man  who  sub- 
sequently preached  the  gospel  of  work  had  practised  it  unre- 
mittingly since  the  day  he  emerged  from  Bohemia.  Fortune 
might  frown  or  success  might  come,  he  did  not  alter  in  Ms 
industrious  habits.  In  spite  of  every  rebuff,  every  attack,  he 
continued  striving  undauntedly,  even  as  his  father  had 
striven  before  him.  He  was  a  living  example  of  the  axiom, 
that  life  is  a  battle.  He  fought  for  his  ideas,  his  princi- 
ples, without  a  pause,  until  his  last  hour. 

"  N"os  Auteurs  Dramatiques,"  responded  by  assailing  Zola's  dramatic  theories, 
in  his  preface  to  " I/lStrangfere."  See  "Theatre  Complet  d'AL  Dumas  j££  " 
Paris,  Calmann  LeVy,  1879.  $ 


VIII 

THE  BATTLE 


1881-1887 

"La  Joie  de  Yivre"  begun  and  put  aside  —  "  Pot-Bouille  "  —  The  outlay  at 
MMan  —  Zola*s  first  franc  —  His  hypochondria  and  dread  of  death  — 
His  opinion  of  drawing-rooms  —  His  idea  of  writing  a  book  which  would 
never  end  —  "  Au  Bonheur  des  Dames  "  begun  —  Zola  falls  seriously  ill 
—  He  recovers  and  finishes  "  Au  Bonheur  des  Dames  "  —  "  Le  Capitaine 
Burle  °  —  The  decline  of  Zolars  sales  —  He  is  still  stage-struck  —  Alphonse 
Daudet  and  the  ITrench  Academy  —  His  popularity  and  friendship  with 
Zola  —  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre  "  finished  —  "Pot-Bouille  "  as  a  play  —  First 
ideas  of  "La  Terref*  —  "Germinal**  —  Zola  among  the  pitmen  —  A 
charge  of  plagiarism  —  The  reception  of  "Germinal  "  —  "  L'CEuvre"  — 
Zola  on  politicians  and  young  writers  —  Death  of  Victor  Hugo  —  Zola's 
telegram  to  George  Hugo  —  "Germinal**  forbidden  as  a  play  —  The 
purport  of  "Germinal"  —  Zola,  humanitarianism,  and  artistry  —  Publi- 
cation of  "LXEuvre**  —  Zola  prepares  **La  Terre"  —  A  glance  at  the 
French  peasantry  —  Sketch  of  "  La  Terre  **  by  Zola  —  His  tour  of  inves- 
tigation —  Various  plays:  "Le  Ventre  de  Paris,"  "Renee,"  Jacques 
Dajnour,"  *  *  Tout  pour  lf  Honneur,  **  —  The  *  '  Manifesto  of  the  Mve  **  against 
Zola  and  "La  Terre**  —  Zola's  opinion  of  it  —  Daudet  and  Goncourt 
unconnected  with  it  —  Prolonged  denunciation  of  Zola  —  M.  Lockroy  to 
the  rescue  —  How  Zola  became  a  knight  of  the  Legion  of  Honour. 

IN  the  year  1881,  besides  launching  the  critical  volumes 
enumerated  in  the  last  chapter,  Zola  carried  his  Rougoii- 
Macquart  series  a  step  further.  Early  in  the  spring  he 
planned  "La  Joie  de  Yivre,"  a  tale  of  pain  and  suffering, 
containing  numerous  autobiographical  passages,  descriptive 
of  some  of  his  feelings  and  peculiarities.  But  while  he  was 
preparing  his  notes  the  recollection  of  his  mother's  recent 
death  constantly  pursued  him,  and  he  felt  it  would  be 
impossible  for  him  at  that  time  to  write  such  a  book  as  he 
wished.  So,  after  a  few  attempts,  he  decided  to  postpone 


^MILE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       207 

this  particular  work.  It  will  be  remembered  that  he  had 
first  intended  to  make  the  Rougon-Macquart  series  one  of 
eight  volumes  only.  Next,  he  had  decided  on  twelve,  to 
which  figure  he  had  adhered  until  the  time  of  "L'Assom- 
moir/*  But  plenty  of  characters  for  additional  volumes 
figured  on  the  leaves  of  the  genealogical  tree  which  he  had 
long  since  prepared,1  and  now  that  success  had  come  he  felt 
that  he  might  extend  his  series.  "Nanaw  was  its  ninth 
volume,  and  he  resolved  to  add  eleven  more.  "  La  Joie  de 
Vivre"  having  been  put  aside,  he  was  thinking  of  what 
subject  he  might  take  in  hand  when,  in  the  course  of  his 
"  Figaro "  campaign,  he  had  occasion  to  write  an  article  on 
"  Adultery  in  the  Middle  Class."  The  idea  that  this  was  the 
great  evil  preying  on  the  'bourgeoisie  seized  hold  of  him,  and 
he  began  to  prepare  the  book  which  he  called  "  Pot-Bouille," 
a  title  which  might  be  Englished,  perhaps,  as  "  The  Stockpot/' 
and  which  signifies  every-day  cuisine  and  by  extension 
every-day  life.  Some  of  the  incidents  that  he  wove  into  this 
work  had  come  under  his  personal  observation,  others  were 
suggested  by  friends,  some  of  whom  also  collected  special 
information  which  he  needed,  Huysmans,  for  instance, 
supplying  notes  about  the  church  of  St.  Roch,  and  C&trd 
inquiring  into  diocesan  architects,  government  clerks,  judges, 
and  others,  their  earnings,  their  duties,  their  pensions,  and 
so  forth.2 

Begun  at  M6dan,  continued  at  Grandcamp  on  the 
Norman  coast,  whither  Zola  betook  himself  during  the 

1  He  had  shown  it  at  a  very  early  stage  to  Ms  friends  Huysmans  and 
Ce*ard,  and  the  former  has  recorded  how  greatly  they  were  amazed  "by  it 
("Le  Matin,"  September  30,  1902.) 

3  Sherard  (I.  c.,  188  et  seq)  gives  a  variety  of  information  on  these  points 
taken  from  Zola's  letters  to  a  friend  whose  name  does  not  appear. 


208    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

summer,  and  eventually  finished  at  MSdaa  in  the  autumn, 
"Pot-Bouille"  first  appeared,  somewhat  bowdlerised,  in  "Le 
Gatilois/'  which  paid  the  author  thirty  thousand  francs l  for 
the  serial  rights.  But  even  Zola's  best  friends  did  not  re- 
ceive the  work  very  favourably.  In  writing  it  he  had  made 
a  trial  of  his  own  scientific  formula,  keeping  his  descriptions 
as  short  as  possible,  dividing  the  narrative  into  acts,  as  it 
were,  like  a  play,  curbing  his  fancy  throughout,  allowing 
no  exuberance  of  style ;  and  he  was  afterwards  amazed  to 
find  so  many  cavillers.  "  It  is  the  clearest  and  most  con- 
densed of  my  novels/7  he  wrote  to  a  friend  early  in  1882.2 
Nevertheless,  this  time  the  public  seemed  to  share  the 
opinion  of  the  critics.  The  sale  of  "  Pot-Bouille  "  in  vol- 
ume form 8  was  much  smaller  than  that  of  "  L'Assommoir  " 
and  "Nana,w  a  circumstance  which  is  worthy  of  note,  for 
Zola's  adversaries  had  argued  that  if  "Nana"  had  sold  so 
largely  it  was  solely  on  account  of  all  the  depravity  depicted 
in  its  pages.  But  here  was  a  book  which,  in  that  respect, 
actually  surpassed  *  If  ana,"  and  yet  it  had  nothing  like  the 
same  sale.  It  has  been  suggested  by  way  of  explanation 
that  middle-class  people  were  the  chief  purchasers  of  Zola's 
works,  and  that  while  they  appreciated  his  delineation  of 
depravity  among  others,  they  were  offended  by  his  descrip- 
tion of  it  among  themselves.  In  that  respect  "  Pot-Bouille  " 
certainly  brought  Zola  some  worry ;  for  as  a  gentleman  of 

l  £1,200  =  about  $6, 000. 

*  Sherard,  L  c.,  p.  193. 

8  "  Pot-Bouille,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1882,  18mo,  499  pages  ;  some  copies 
on  Dutch,  India,  and  Japanese  paper;  eighty-second  thousand  in  1893, 
ninety-fifth  thousand  in  1903.  Illustrated  edition:  Marpon  and  Mamma- 
rion,  1883,  large  8vo,  titles,  452  pages.  Fifty-seven  wood-engravings  after 
Bellanger  and  Kaiifrmann,  Sold  also  in  parts  at  10  centimes.  One  hun- 
dred special  copies  on  Dutch  paper  with  the  engravings  on  India  paper. 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      209 

the  law  declared  he  recognised  himself  in  a  certain  char- 
acter, legal  proceedings  supervened,  and  Zola  had  to  make 
certain  alterations  in  his  work. 

Shortly  before  the  publication  of  **  Pot-Bouille/*  Edmond 
de  Goncourt  had  suggested  to  Zola  that  their  monthly 
dinners,  abandoned  since  the  death  of  Flaubert,  might  be 
resumed,  and  Zola,  like  Tourgeneff  and  Alphonse  Daudet, 
immediately  assented.  Goncourt,  by  the  way,  would  seem 
to  have  then  seen  little  of  Zola  for  some  time  past  He 
mentions  that  he  read  the  first  chapters  of  his  novel,  *  La 
Faustin,"  to  the  Zolas,  the  Daudets,  H£r&dia,  Gharpentier, 
and  the  "young  men  of  M6dan,"  on  which  occasion  he  was 
amazed  to  find  that  the  passages  based  on  study  and 
research  produced  no  effect  on  his  little  audience,  whereas 
the  chapters  in  which  he  had  relied  on  Ms  imagination  car- 
ried them  away.  And  he  was  particularly  amused  when 
Zola  declared  that  a  certain  imaginary  Greek,  called  Atha- 
asiadas,  must  really  have  been  drawn  from  the  life.1  A 
little  later,  when  Goncourt,  the  Daudets,  and  Charpentier 
visited  Zola  at  M^dan,  they  found  that  he  had  already  spent 
two  hundred  thousand  francs  on  his  house  there,  besides 
buying  one  of  the  islands  on  the  Seine  near  the  property 
and  building  a  chalet  on  it  In  talking  of  those  matters, 
Zola  evinced  a  superb  contempt  for  money.  It  was  Im- 
possible for  him  to  hoard,  he  said ;  he  remembered  the  first 
franc-piece  given  him  when  he  was  a  very  little  boy.  He 
had  immediately  gone  to  buy  a  purse,  which  had  cost  him 
nineteen  sous,  in  such  wise  that  he  had  only  one  sou  left 
to  put  in  it.2 

i  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  YoL  VI,  p.  140. 
3  Ibid.,  p.  162. 


210     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

When  the  monthly  "Diner  des  Autetirs  Siffl&s"  was 
resumed  in  March,  1882,  the  two  stock  subjects  of  conver- 
sation, says  Goncourt,  were  death  and  love.  And  the 
hypochondriasis  from  which  Zola  was  suffering,  which  had 
declared  itself  at  the  time  of  his  mother's  death  and  had 
recently  compelled  him  to  put  "  La  Joie  de  Yivre "  aside, 
now  "became  painfully  manifest.  An  unreasoning  fear  of 
death,  and,  it  would  seem,  even  of  suffering  pursued  him. 
Somewhat  later  ( in  1885  )  and  apropos  of  the  terrible,  lin- 
gering death  of  Jules  Vall&s,  who  in  the  midst  of  a  friendly 
conversation  would  suddenly  blanch  with  dread  as  if  he 
could  see  death  approaching  him,  Zola  said  to  Goncourt: 
"  Ah !  to  be  struck  down  suddenly,  as  Flaubert  was,  that  is 
the  death  one  should  desire,"1  This  wish,  we  know,  was 
ultimately  granted.  But  in  1882,  according  to  Goncourt, 
Zola,  who  believed  that  he  had  a  complaint  of  the  heart,  was 
tortured  by  the  idea  of  <*a  sudden  and  violent  death  which 
would  fall  upon  him  before  he  had  finished  his  work." 
Again,  we  know  that  such  a  fate  did  ultimately  befall  him ; 
but  Goncourt  tells  us  that,  at  the  period  we  have  now 
reached,  the  thought  of  it  haunted  him  to  such  a  degree 
that  "since  the  death  of  his  mother,  whose  coffin  it  had 
been  necessary  to  bring  down  by  way  of  the  window  (there 
being  only  a  narrow,  winding  staircase  at  M6dan,  in  spite  of 
all  its  embellishments),  he  had  never  since  been  able  to  set 
eyes  on  that  window  without  wondering  who  would  soon  be 
lowered  from  it,  himself  or  his  wife.  '  Yes/  he  said, '  since 
that  day  the  thought  of  death  is  always  lurking  in  our 
minds.  We  now  invariably  keep  a  light  burning  in  our  bed- 
room, and  very  often,  when  I  look  at  my  wife  before  she 

1  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  YoL  YII,  p.  11. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  211 

falls  asleep,  I  feel  that  she  is  thinking  of  it  even  as  I  am. 
And  we  remain  like  that,  a  certain  feeling  of  delicacy  pre- 
venting us  from  making  any  allusion  to  what  we  are  both 
thinking  of.  Oh !  the  thought  is  terrible  I  There  are  nights 
when  I  suddenly  spring  out  of  bed  on  both  feet,  and  remain 
for  a  moment  in  a  state  of  indescribable  fright.' "  l 

And  this,  it  will  be  observed,  was  the  leading  French 
novelist  of  the  time,  a  man  in  the  prime  of  life,  whose  name 
was  already  known  all  over  the  world,  who  had  risen  from 
poverty  to  affluence,  and  who,  if  attacked  by  some,  was  also 
envied  by  thousands ! 

A  few  days  after  telling  his  friends  how  he  suffered  at  the 
thought  of  death,  Zola  gave  a  diner  Jin  at  his  Paris  residence. 
There  was  great  display;  and  Goncourt  tells  us  that  the 
menu  included  potage  au  IU  vert,  reindeers'  tongues,  mullet 
&  la  Proven$ale,  and  truffled  guineafowl.2  But  Zola  was  still 
out  of  sorts.  Success  had  no  charms  for  him,  he  said,  and, 
in  his  estimation,  literature  was  a  mere  dog's  trade.  Less 
than  a  month  afterwards,  on  April  6,  the  day  when  "  Pot- 
Bouille  '  was  published,  and  when  the  first  orders  seemed  to 
indicate  a  large  demand  for  the  book,  Goncourt  met  Zola 
again  and  found  him  as  morose  as  ever.  The  truth  would 
appear  to  be  that  he  resented  some  of  the  criticisms  already 
levelled  at  his  work.  He  kept  on  growling,  and  finally  ex- 
claimed that  it  was  not  so  necessary  to  have  had  actual 
experience  of  things  as  some  folk  imagined ;  and  as  for  in- 
cessant reading,  well,  he  had  not  the  time  for  it.  "  Society  ? " 
he  added,  "  why,  what  does  a  drawing-room  reveal  of  life  ? 
It  shows  one  nothing  at  all !  I  have  five  and  twenty  men 

1  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  VI,  p.  186  (March  6,  1882). 
a  A  somewhat  similar  dinner  is  described  in  "  L'OEuvre." 


212       laULB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

now  working  at  M6dan  who  teach  me  a  hundred  times  more 
than  any  drawing-room  would  teach  me." 

Again  on  April  18,  when  lunching  with  Madame  Zola  at 
Goncourf  s,  he  was  full  of  spleen,  complaining  of  a  score 
of  worries,  and  notably  of  some  plot,  engineered  by  sundry 
members  of  the  French  Academy,  to  stop  the  circulation  of 
*  Pot-Bouille."  He  had  now  already  begun  to  write  the 
next  instalment  of  the  Rougon-Macquarts,  that  is,  "Au 
Bonheur  des  Dames,"  but  according  to  his  statements  to 
G-oncourt,  this  story  really  had  no  great  attraction  for  him. 
He  dreamt  of  undertaking  some  work  which  he  would  never 
be  able  to  finish,  he  said,  something  which  would  give 
him  occupation,  and  at  the  same  time  enable  him  to  retire 
from  the  every-day  battle  without  saying  so  —  for  instance, 
some  colossal  and  endless  history  of  French  literature.  In 
July  that  same  year  — 1882  —  when  Goncourt,  Daudet,  and 
Charpentier  were  at  M^dau,  Zola  reiterated  his  dissatisfac- 
tion with  "  Au  Bonheur  des  Dames."  His  previous  success 
had  spoilt  his  life,  he  declared;  he  would  never  again  be 
able  to  write  a  book  which  would  make  as  much  stir  as 
"  L'  Assomnioir "  or  command  such  a  multitude  of  readers 
as  "Nana."1 

Writing  to  a  friend  a  fortnight  previously,  he  had  evinced 
less  pessimism.  Indeed,  though  he  referred  to  "Au  Bon- 
heur des  Dames "  as  a  tour  de  force  which  would  end  by 
disgusting  people  "with  the  complicated  state  of  French 
literature,"  he  had  expressed  himself  as  being  generally 
satisfied,  and  as  enjoying  the  solitude  in  which  he  found 
himself  at  M&Ian,  for  it  lent  him  great  lucidity  of  mind. 
But  it  is  certain  that  his  nerves  were  overstrained,  and  that 
i  "Journal des  Goncourt,1*  Vol.  YI,  p.  209. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEB       213 

Goncourt's  opinion  of  his  condition  was  accurate ;  for  a  little 
later,  in  August,  he  collapsed  and  had  to  cease  work  entirely. 
His  friends  were  very  much  alarmed,  for  his  weakness  be- 
came extreme  and  a  fatal  issue  seemed  possible.  But  his 
constitution  slowly  triumphed  over  that  nervous  prostration, 
and  at  the  end  of  October,  one  finds  him  writing  to  a 
friend :  "  I  am  a  little  better.  I  have  been  able  to  get  back 
to  work.  Nevertheless  I  am  not  at  all  strong.  I  fancy 
that  something  very  grave  brushed  past  me  but  spared 
me.  .  .  .  How  heavy  is  the  pen!  For  the  next  two  or 
three  years  I  ought  to  lead  the  life  of  an  idiot  [i.  e.  a  purely 
animal  life  without  mental  exertion]  in  order  to  recover  my 
strength.  I  have  become  such  a  coward  that  the  prospect 
of  having  to  finish  my  book  terrifies  me." l 

But  he  compelled  himself  to  resume  it,  for  as  is  well 
known  he  regarded  work  as  the  panacea  for  all  evils,  physi- 
cal as  well  as  mental.  Thus,  by  the  middle  of  November, 
he  was  able  to  announce  that  he  had  taken  up  his  task 
again  with  a  sufficiency  of  courage  and  intellectual  health- 
It  was  about  this  time  that  M.  Charpentier  published  a  vol- 
ume of  his  short  stories,  previously  contributed  to  various 
periodicals.2  Moreover  "  Au  Bonheur  des  Dames  "  was  now 
appearing  serially  in  the  "  Gil  Bias,"  which  paid  twenty 

1  Sherard,  /.  c.,  p.  196. 

a  "Le  Capitaine  Burle,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  18mo;  title-pages  "bear  the 
date  1883,  "but  the  book  really  appeared  late  in  1882.  Besides  the  story 
which  gave  the  volume  its  title,  the  following  figured  in  it :  "  Comment  on 
meurt,"  "Pour  une  Nuit  d' Amour,"  "Le  F§te  a  Coqueville,"  "L'lnonda- 
tion."  "  Le  Capitaine  Burle  "  first  appeared  in  "  La  Tie  Moderne,"  February, 
1881;  and  the  others  in  "Le  Voltaire,"  1880.  Of  the  volume  twenty-five 
copies  were  printed  on  India,  and  fifty  on  Dutch  paper.  Marpon  and  Flam- 
marion  added  "Le  Capitaine  Burle  "  to  their  illustrated  edition  of  "  Therese 
Kaquin  ";  and  under  various  titles  the  other  stories  figure  in  their  "  Collection 
des  Auteurs  celebres." 


214       iMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

thousand  francs  for  the  right  of  publication,  or  two-thirds 
of  the  amount  which  it  had  given  for  "  Pot-Bouille."  "  Au 
Bonheur  des  Dames  "  had  naturally  necessitated  considerable 
preliminary  study  and  investigation  in  order  that  a  truthful 
picture  might  be  presented  of  the  trade  of  a  great  city,  as 
exemplified  by  one  of  those  huge  drapery  establishments, 
—  the  Louvre,  the  Bon  Harelip  tod  the  Printemps.  Some 
such  leviathan,  devouring  all  the  small  fry  around  it  and 
teeming  with  restless  life,  was  depicted  in  Zola's  pages, 
which  introduced  the  reader  to  a  world  of  counter-jumpers 
beneath  whose  superficial  gloss  lay  much  rank  brutishness. 
And  the  subject  also  embraced  the  hard,  the  often  cruel 
lot  of  the  girls  employed  in  such  places,  the  ambition 
and  commercial  daring  of  the  master,  and  the  ways  of  all 
the  customers,  not  forgetting  the  kleptomaniacs.  But 
though  the  book  was  full  of  interest  of  a  particular  kind 
and  deserved  the  attention  of  all  thinking  people,  it  was 
perhaps  scarcely  one  to  fascinate  the  great  majority  of 
readers.  Zola  finished  it  at  the  end  of  January,  1883, 
and  in  March  it  was  published  by  M.  Charpentier.1  Most 
of  the  newspapers  dealt  with  it  sharply;  and  Schdrer, 
the  Protestant  critic  of  "Le  Temps,"  still  smarting  from 
the  attacks  which  Zola  had  made  upon  the  French  Pro- 
testants, their  alleged  self-righteousness  and  narrow  big- 

*"Au  Bonheur  des  Dames,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1883,  18mo,  525  pages. 
Some  copies  on  Japanese  and  some  on  Dutch  paper.  Fifty-ninth  thousand 
reached  in  1893;  seventy-fifth  thousand  in  1903.  This  would  seem  to  have 
been  the  first  of  Zola's  works  of  which  a  translation  appeared  in  England. 
This  translation  was  made  "by  Mr.  Frank  Turner,  subsequently  secretary  to 
General  Boulanger;  it  was  first  issued  in  a  weekly  periodical,  which  the  present 
writer  believes  to  have  been  "The  London  Reader,"  and  was  afterwards 
published  in  book  form  by  Tinsley  Brothers.  Tizetelly  &  Co.  acquired  the 
copyright  and  ultimately  sold  it  to  E.  A.  Vizetelly,  who  transferred  it  to 
Hutchinson  &  Co, 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  215 

otry,  during  his  "  Figaro  n  campaign,  revengefully  described 
the  book  as  "  the  attempt  of  an  illiterate  individual  to  lower 
literature  to  his  own  level."  l  The  general  public  did  not 
take  very  kindly  to  the  work.  With  "  Pot-Bouille  "  there  had 
at  least  been  a  moment  when  a  very  large  sale  had  seemed 
probable,  but  the  demand  for  "Au  Bonheur  des  Dames" 
was  distinctly  moderate,  and  the  wiseacres  of  the  bookselling 
world  opined  that  Zola,  after  going  up  like  a  rocket,  might 
presently  come  down  like  a  stick.  It  is  true  that  the  sudden 
and  melodramatic  death  of  Gambetta  a  short  time  previously 
(December  31,  1882)  had  left  the  French  political  world  in 
some  confusion ;  and  it  is  known  that  the  bookselling  trade 
invariably  suffers  when  there  is  any  political  unrest.  Yet 
the  conditions  of  the  time  did  not  sufficiently  explain  the 
drop  in  the  demand  for  Zola's  writings. 

Goncourt,  who  met  him  a  short  time  after  the  publication 
of  "Au  Bonheur  des  Dames,"  found  him  lugubrious.  "The 
big  sales  are  all  over,"  said  he,  in  much  the  same  tone  as 
a  Trappist  might  have  ejaculated  the  customary  greeting, 
"Brother,  one  must  die/'  Nevertheless,  though  he  had 
several  excellent  subjects  in  his  mind,  —  books  which  under 
favourable  circumstances  might  well  have  compelled  a  re- 
newal of  public  attention,  —  he  deliberately  postponed  them, 
and  turned  to  a  work  which  he  must  have  known  would 
appeal  to  only  a  small  audience,  that  study  of  suffering, 
egotism,  and  sacrifice  which  he  called  satirically  "  La  Joie 
de  Vivre,"  and  which  he  had  put  aside  in  1881. 

After  all,  in  Ms  estimation  apparently,  it  mattered  little 
what  book  he  took  in  hand,  for  as  he  remarked  to  G-oncourt 
at  the  Com^die  Frangaise  on  the  night  of  the  revival  of 

1  Schte's  "Etudes  sur  la  Literature  Contemporaine,"  Yol.  VII,  p.  240, 


216    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Victor  Hugo's  "Le  Roi  s'amuse"  (November  23,  1882), 
novels  were  always  the  same  thing  over  and  over  again ;  and 
it  would  only  be  possible  to  take  an  interest  in  the  writing 
of  them  if  one  could  invent  a  new  form.  Personally  his 
great  desire  was  an  opportunity  to  produce  a  play,  one  really 
all  his  own.  In  a  word  he  was  as  stage-struck  as  ever,  and 
it  seemed  unlikely  that  he  would  feel  content  until  he  had 
criven  the  world  an  acknowledged  dramatic  masterpiece. 
That  comparative  disregard  for  the  work  for  which  one  is 
best  fitted,  that  craving  to  excel  in  something  else,  and  to 
be  praised  for  it,  has  appeared  in  many  men,  in  various 
degrees  and  ways.  There  was  Thackeray,  who  always 
longed  to  see  his  drawings  commended ;  there  was  Ingres, 
who  courted  more  applause  for  his  proficiency  as  a  violinist 
than  for  his  gifts  as  a  painter. 

At  the  opening  of  the  Salon  of  1883,  Zola  lunched  with 
Daudet  and  Goncourt;  and  Daudet  unbosoming  himself, 
as  was  often  his  wont,  solicited  the  advice  of  his  friends  as 
to  whether  he  should  offer  himself  as  a  candidate  for  the 
French  Academy.  Both  Zola  and  Goncourt  urged  him  to 
do  so,  and  there  was  no  reason  why  they  should  have  acted 
otherwise,  for  he  had  many  chances  in  his  favour.  He 
occupied  a  high  position  as  a  novelist,  and  though  nowadays 
no  thinking  critic  can  place  him  in  the  same  rank  as  Zola, 
he  was  at  that  time  far  more  popular,  for  if,  here  and  there, 
he  had  lampooned  one  or  another  individual  in  his  books,  he 
had  never  given  anything  like  the  offence  which  Zola  had 
given  in  many  directions. 

It  may  be  said,  perhaps,  that  in  1883  Alphonse  Daudet 
had  reached  the  height  of  his  reputation.  In  any  case  his 
best  work  was  already  done.  His  novel,  "  Le  Nabab,"  pub- 


SIMILE  ZOLA— NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  217 

lished  in  1878,  had  been  followed  the  next  year  by  "  Les  Rois 
en  Exil,"  and  in  1880  by  "  Numa  Roumestan,"  which  would 
seem  to  mark  the  apogee  of  his  career,  for  a  decline  was 
already  observable  in  "  L'Evangfliste,"  published  in  1882, 
and  although  "Sapho/1  issued  two  years  later,  sold  pro- 
digiously, it  was  not  really  a  great  book  in  the  opinion  of 
the  present  writer,  who,  cast  young  into  the  vortex  of  Paris, 
knows  something  of  the  existence  depicted  in  Daudet's  pages, 
and  has  always  held  that  picture  to  be  artificial,  untrue  to 
nature  in  many  essential  respects,  and  absolutely  deficient 
in  depth.  Indeed  "Sapho"  is  a  mere  skimming  of  the 
surface;  it  never  probes.  But  when  all  is  said,  Daudet 
could  be  an  admirable  story-teller  when  he  chose,  and  the 
very  gifts,  which  on  one  hand  led  to  some  adverse  criti- 
cisni)  —  kis  veneer  of  poetry,  his  sentimentality,  his  inclina- 
tion to  moralise,  —  won  him  favour  far  and  wide  among 
people  of  average  intellects. 

As  was  suggested  earlier  in  these  pages,  Daudet  brought 
a  feminine  talent  into  competition  with  the  masculine  talent 
of  Zola.  Each  had  his  champions  in  the  Parisian  world  of 
those  days,  and  nothing  would  have  given  some  folk  greater 
pleasure  than  a  fierce  battle  for  supremacy  between  the  two 
men  who  had  become  the  most  widely  read  novelists  of  their 
time.  But  as  a  matter  of  fact  they  were  the  best  of  friends. 
One  has  only  to  glance  at  Zola's  collected  essays  to  see  how 
he  praised  some  of  Daudet's  writings ;  while  on  consulting 
the  pages  of  Goncourt's  <e  Journal"  one  will  find  the  two 
rivals  constantly  together,  dining  and  lunching  and  making 
excursions.  Daudet  frequently  went  to  M&Ian,  where  he 
boated  on  the  Seine,  singing  gaily  while  he  rowed,  for  his 
health  was  still  good,  his  spirits  were  still  those  of  the 


218      ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

joyous  South,  all  brightness  and  geniality,  which  often 
helped  to  dispel  his  friend's  hypochondria.  That  he  was 
worthy  of  a  place  in  the  French  Academy  goes  without  say- 
ing, and  it  was  only  natural  that  he  should  have  thought 
of  offering  himself  as  a  candidate  and  have  solicited  his 
friends'  advice.  But,  as  will  be  remembered,  his  views  on 
the  subject  changed  entirely;  he  allowed  it  to  be  known 
that  he  regarded  the  Academy  as  beneath  his  notice,  and 
then,  in  a  contradictory  spirit,  went  out  of  his  way  to 
lampoon  it  in  a  third-rate  book,  "  L'lmmorteL"  As  for 
Zola,  in  1883  there  could  be  no  question  of  an  Academical 
seat  for  him.  He  was  still  in  the  midst  of  his  battle,  with 
his  work  only  half  done. 

His  novel  "La  Joie  de  Vivre,"  begun  at  M^dan,  was 
written  chiefly  amid  the  wild,  primitive  surroundings  of  the 
Anse  de  Benodet*  a  creek  on  the  rocky  coast  of  Finistkre ; 
but  the  scene  of  the  book  was  laid  on  the  Norman  shore, 
between  St.  Aubin  and  Grandcamp,  where  Zola  had  stayed 
in  previous  years.  In  Lazare  Chanteau,  the  "hero"  of  his 
stoiy,  he  depicted  much  of  his  own  hypochondria,  at  which 
he  had  already  glanced  in  a  tale  called  "  La  Mort  d'Olivier 
B^caille."  Lazare's  fear  of  death,  his  petty  superstitions,  his 
irresolution,  were  all  based  on  Zola's  personal  experience. 
So  gray  a  work,  which  only  the  devotion  and  self-sacrifice 
of  Pauline,  the  heroine,  occasionally  brightens,  could  not  at- 
tract the  mass  of  the  reading  public.  It  was  published  first 
by  the  "  Gil  Bias,"  which  again  paid  twenty  thousand  francs 
for  the  serial  rights ;  but  when  it  appeared  as  a  volume  its 
sales  were  small1  In  fact,  from  the  standpoint  of  circula- 

1  "  La  Joie  de  Yivre,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  18mo,  451  pages ;  some  early 
copies  dated  1883,  others  1884,  when  (February)  it  would  appear  to  have  been 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMER  219 

tion,  Zola  now  relapsed  into  the  position  he  had  occupied 
before  "  L'Assommoir." 

But  he  had  made  a  fresh  effort  as  a  playwright,  having 
prepared  a  dramatic  version  of  "  Pot-Bouille,"  in  conjunc- 
tion with  M.  Busnach.  This,  which  was  produced  at  the 
Ambigu  Theatre  on  December  13, 1883,  proved  less  success- 
ful than  its  forerunners,  "L'Assommoir"  and  "Nana,"  and 
Zola,  in  a  grumpish  mood,  decided  to  remain  at  "  the  mill," 
that  is,  write  another  novel.  This  time,  however,  he  hesi- 
tated awhile  as  to  his  subject.  Among  those  he  had 
selected  for  consideration  was  the  railway  world,  but  he 
was  still  at  a  loss  how  he  might  work  it  into  a  novel.  It 
would  be  better  to  turn  to  the  peasantry,  to  whom  he 
must  certainly  devote  a  book;  and  so,  after  telling  Gon- 
court  that  his  next  novel  would  be  called  "  La  Terre,"  and 
that  in  order  to  obtain  the  requisite  local  colour  he  would 
have  to  spend  at  least  a  month  on  a  farm  in  La  Beauce, 
he  asked  his  friend  if  it  would  be  possible  to  procure  him 
a  letter  of  recommendation  from  some  large  landowner 
to  one  of  his  farmers,  *who  might  be  willing  to  give  a 
lodging  to  a  lady  in  poor  health  and  in  need  of  country  air. 
The  lady  in  question  —  Madame  Zola  —  would  naturally 
be  accompanied  by  her  husband,  and,  added  Zola,  a  double- 
bedded  room  with  whitewashed  walls  would  be  ample 
accommodation,  though  it  must  be  arranged  that  he  and 
his  wife  should  take  their  meals  with  the  farmer  and  his 
family,  for  otherwise  he  would  learn  virtually  nothing.1 
He  realised,  apparently,  that  folks  unbutton  themselves 

really  published.  Some  copies  were  on  Japan,  India,  and  Dutch  paper. 
Forty-fourth  thousand  in  1893  on  completion  of  the  Rougon-Macquart  series  ; 
fifty-fourth  thousand  in  1903. 

l  "  Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Vol.  VI,  p.  288  (January  16,  1884). 


220    $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEE 

(in  the  figurative  sense)  more  readily  at  meal-time  than 
at  any  other. 

Goncourt  was  unable  to  help  his  friend  in  this  matter, 
at  all  events  immediately;  so  Zola  turned  to  another 
subject  which  he  mentioned  on  the  same  occasion,  that 
of  a  strike  in  a  mining  district,  such  as  was  in  progress 
among  the  pitmen  of  northern  France  at  that  very  moment. 
Forthwith  he  started  for  the  scene  of  the  trouble.  "At 
Valenciennes  since  Saturday,  among  the  strikers,  who  are 
remarkably  calm,"  he  wrote  in  February,  1884.  "  A  splen- 
did country  as  a  scene  for  my  book,"  This  time  his  subject 
fairly  carried  him  away.  "  He  spent,"  says  Mr.  Sherard, 
"  the  best  part  of  six  months  in  travelling  about,  note-book 
in  hand,  through  the  various  mining  districts  of  the  north 
of  France  and  of  Belgium,  interviewing  miners,  exploring 
mines  from  pit-mouth  to  lowest  depths,  attending  political 
meetings  among  the  miners,  studying  various  types  of 
Socialist  lecturers,  drinking  horrible  beer  and  still  more 
horrible  brandy  in  the  forlorn  cabarets  of  the  corons  [miners' 
villages],  interrogating  miners'  wives,  and  wandering  about 
the  fields  in  the  neighbourhood  of  these  corons  to  watch 
the  lads  and  lassies  taking  their  poor  pastimes  when  the 
day's  drudgery  was  over."1 

Some  eight  or  nine  years  subsequently,  Mr.  Sherard, 
on  visiting  the  Borinage,  as  the  coal  district  round  Mons 
is  called,  fell  in  with  an  old  porion  or  "  viewer  "  who  had 
acted  as  one  of  Zola's  guides,  and  who  pronounced  him 
to  have  been  the  most  inquisitive  gentleman  he  had  ever 
met.  Never  had  he  known  anybody  who  asked  more 
questions,  said  he,  unless,  indeed,  it  were  an  investigating 

*  Sherard,  1.  <?.,  p.  203. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE    221 

magistrate.  Mr.  Sherard  mentions  also  that  "Germinal" 
—  for  that  was  the  book  which  proceeded  from  Zola's 
sojourn  among  the  pitmen  —  was  known  in  every  mining 
village  which  he  visited.  There  was  not  a  coron  where 
at  least  one  well-thumbed  copy  of  the  work  could  not 
be  found :  a  proof  of  the  appreciation  in  which  it  was  held 
by  the  toilers  on  whose  behalf  it  had  been  written. 

The  preliminary  study  which  "Germinal"  necessitated, 
the  long  sojourn  among  new  and  strange  scenes,  the  strong 
interest,  the  compassion  roused  by  all  Zola  saw  and  heard, 
most  certainly  proved  very  beneficial  to  him,  reinvigorating 
him,  checking  his  hypochondriacal  tendency,  diverting  his 
mind  from  self,  renewing  and  enlarging  his  ideas.  Thus 
he  was  again  in  possession  of  physical  and  mental  strength 
when  he  began  the  actual  writing  of  the  book.  Like  his 
more  recent  novels  it  was  published  en  feuilleton  by  the 
"  Gil  Bias " ; 1  and  an  English  version,  prepared  by  Mr. 
Albert  Vandam,  appeared  in  a  London  weekly  newspaper, 
"  The  People."  2 

While  the  serial  issue  was  in  progress  Zola  was  once 
again  accused  of  plagiarism.  This  time  he  was  said  to  have 
borrowed  the  idea  of  "  Germinal "  from  a  story  called  w  Le 

1  About  this  time,  that  is  late  in  1884,  there  appeared  another  volume  of 
Zola's  short  stories :  "Nais  Micoulin,"  Paris,  Gharpentier,  18mo,  384 pages; 
twenty-five  copies  on  India,  one  hundred  on  Dutch  paper.  Besides  "  Nais" 
the  volume  contained :  "  Kantas,"  "  La  Mort  d'Olivier  Be~eaille,"  "  Madame 
Neigeon,"  "Les  Coquillages  de  M.  Chabre,"  and  "Jacques  Damour."  All 
these  tales  will  also  be  found  in  Marpon  and  Flammarion's  popular  "  Col- 
lection des  Auteurs  cel&bres." 

3  Under  date  November  20,  1884,  Zola  sold  all  his  rights  in  "Germinal » 
for  Great  Britain  to  Mr.  W.  T*  Madge,  manager  of  "  The  People/*  Yizetelly 
&  Co.  acquired  book  rights  from  the  latter  and  published  a  fuller  transla- 
tion. Their  rights  were  subsequently  purchased  by  E.  A.  Vizetelly  and  sold 
by  him  to  Chatto  and  Windus. 


222    tmLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Grisou"  ("  Firedamp  '*),  by  M.  Maurice  Talmeyre  —  a  story 
which  likewise  dealt  with  the  coalpits  of  northern  France, 
and  which  when  published  a  few  years  previously  had  at- 
tracted some  attention,  being  full  of  interest  and  written 
with  literary  ability.  But  the  idea  that  Zola  had  stolen  his 
idea  of  "  Germinal "  from  it  was  ridiculous.  It  had  been 
pointed  out  long  since  by  Alexis  that  he  proposed  to  add 
a  second  volume  on  the  masses  to  the  study  he  had  made 
of  them  in  "  L'Assommoir,"  intending  on  the  second  occa- 
sion to  deal  more  particularly  with  their  social  and  political 
aspirations.  That  intention  was  partially  carried  into  effect 
in  "Germinal,"  and  the  idea  of  laying  the  scene  of  his 
story  in  the  "black  country"  of  northern  France  was 
a  sudden  inspiration  which  came  to  Zola  when  he  found 
it  difficult  to  proceed  immediately  with  his  proposed  work 
on  some  of  the  French  peasantry  —  an  inspiration  which 
was  not  derived  from  M.  Talmeyre's  book  at  all,  but  from 
the  circumstance  that  some  thousands  of  pitmen  were  on 
strike  at  that  very  time. 

Surely  no  author  can  claim  a  monopoly  of  any  subject 
or  any  locality.  One  writer,  for  instance,  may  lay  a  scene 
in  Regent  Street;  another  is  equally  entitled  to  do  so; 
and  in  the  result  there  may  well  be  some  resemblance 
between  their  descriptions  of  the  thoroughfare.  More- 
over, in  giving  an  account  of  any  form  of  life,  all  writers 
are  confronted  by  the  same  essential  facts.  They  may 
regard  them,  interpret  them,  differently,  but  each  must 
take  them  into  account,  Thus  if  somewhat  similar  scenes 
and  corresponding  facts  figure  occasionally  in  "  Le  Grisou  " 
and  "  Germinal "  it  does  not  follow  that  the  second  is  stolen 
from  the  first.  But  Zola,  unfortunately,  was  a  much-hated 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    223 

man,  and  the  flimsiest  peg  was  good  enough  for  his  enemies. 
As  a  matter  of  fact,  with  respect  to  "  Germinal/*  he  gave 
nearly  six  months  to  personal  study  of  his  suhject  on  the 
spot,  and  though  he  derived  a  few  incidents,  as  he  was 
well  entitled  to  do,  from  officially  recorded  instances  of  the 
horrors  and  dangers  of  the  pitman's  life,1  Ms  work  well 
deserved  to  be  regarded  not  only  as  an  original  one  but 
even  as  a  livre  vecu.  When  "  Germinal "  appeared  as  a 
volume  there  was  a  large  demand  for  it,  though  its  circula- 
tion did  not  approach  that  of  "  I/Assommoir "  or  "  Nana." 
This  has  surprised  several  writers  on  Zola,  who  hold 
"Germinal"  to  be  his  masterpiece;  but  it  has  already 
been  pointed  out  in  these  pages  that  his  sales  had  been 
declining  for  some  time  past,  books  like  "  Pot-BouiUe " 
having  angered  many  of  his  readers.  It  was  hardly  to 
be  expected  that  he  would  regain  all  his  lost  ground  at 
one  leap,  and  under  the  circumstances  the  reception  given 
to  "  Germinal "  was  distinctly  cheering.  Moreover,  whereas 
there  had  been  no  popular  illustrated  edition  of  "  Au  Bon- 
heur  des  Dames  "  or  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre,"  one  of  "  Germinal" 
in  parts  soon  made  its  appearance,  and  sold  very  widely, 
in  such  wise  that  the  full  extent  of  the  book's  circulation 
cannot  be  gauged  by  M.  Charpentier's  printings.2 

1  For  instance,  the  horrible  experiences  of  ^tienne  Lantier  in  the  Voreux 
pit  towards  the  close  of  the  "book  were  based  on  those  of  a  miner  walled  np  in 
a  Lyons  pit  in  1854,  and  on  those  of  a  pitman  of  the  Gard,  described  by  M. 
Parran,  an  engineer,  in  the  "  Bulletin  de  la  Societe*  de  Hndustrie  Minerale." 
That  narrative  suggested  the  idea  of  the  floating  corpse  in  the  inundated  mine. 

3  "Germinal,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1885,  ISrao,  581  pages.  Eighty-eighth 
thousand  in  1893  j  one  hundred  and  tenth  thousand  in  1903.  Some  copies 
on  Japanese,  Dutch,  and  India  papers.  Illustrated  edition :  Paris,  Llbrairie 
Illustre'e,  n,  d.,  quarto,  titles,  five  hundred  pages ;  wood-engravings  after 
Pe*rat ;  one  hundred  and  fifty  copies  on  Dutch  paper.  This  edition  like 
others  is  now  sold  by  E.  Elammarion,  successor  of  Marpon  and  Elanimarion, 
Eue  Eacine,  Paris.. 


224    iftMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOBMEE 

The  next  work  which  Zola  took  in  hand  was  "  L'GEuvre," 
the  most  autobiographical  of  all  his  novels,  and  one  for 
which  he  had  no  need  to  collect  documents,  for  his  mate- 
rials were  stored  away  in  his  memory.  A  little  of  his  hypo- 
chondria had  now  returned  to  him,  and  the  writing  of 
**  Germinal "  having  compelled  him  to  give  some  attention 
to  politics,  he  did  not  cease  to  rail  at  politicians.  At  the 
"  Henriette  Marshal "  anniversary  dinner  (May  6, 1885)  he 
made  quite  a  sortie  against  them,  declaring  that  they  were 
the  sworn  foes  of  literary  men,  in  which  opinion  Edmond  de 
Goncourt  cordially  agreed.  About  that  time  "  L'Assommoir  " 
was  revived  as  a  play,  and  at  a  dinner  given  at  the  Maison 
Dor^e  to  celebrate  the  event,  Zola  turned  from  the  politi- 
cians to  rate  some  of  the  young  authors  of  the  time,  their 
alacrity  of  speech,  and  on  the  other  hand  their  unwillingness 
to  take  the  trouble  of  writing,  unless  they  were  positively 
assured  of  publication.  One  of  these  young  men,  said 
Zol%  would  expound  an  idea  that  had  come  to  him,  depict 
in  glowing  terms  all  the  interest  which  such  or  such  a  book 
would  have,  and  then  conclude  coldly :  "  Ah  !  if  a  publisher 
would  only  order  it  of  me ! "  For  young  men  of  that  stamp 
there  was  no  question  of  striving.  They  would  work  to 
order  or  not  at  all.  Thus  literature  was  becoming  a  mere 
commercial  pursuit. 

On  May  22, 1885,  France  lost  her  great  poet,  Victor  Hugo. 
He  had  been  sinking  for  some  time ;  nevertheless  the  news 
that  he  was  really  dead  quite  startled  Paris,  During  his 
last  illness  he  had  declined  the  ministrations  of  "  any  priest 
of  any  religion,"  and  the  announcement  that  he  would  be 
buried  without  rites  or  prayers  angered  the  Church  party 
exceedingly,  and  led  to  unseemly  scenes  in  the  Chamber  of 


3 

4-> 
CC 

.59 

!S 
.5 

rt 

*3 

N 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEB    225 

Deputies  when  It  was  proposed  that  the  Pantheon  should 
be  restored  to  its  former  destination  as  the  resting-place  of 
the  great  men  of  Trance,  and  that  Hugo's  remains  should 
be  laid  in  it  This  proposal  having  been  shelved  by  the 
Chamber,  the  popular  indignation  became  so  great  that 
President  Gr^vy  virtually  took  the  law  into  his  own  hands, 
and  issued  a  decree  in  accordance  with  public  opinion. 
The  obsequies  became  a  great  anticlerical  demonstration. 
Of  course,  for  years  past,  many  free-thinkers  had  been  buried 
without  the  celebration  of  religious  rites;  but  there  had 
been  only  a  few  great  secular  public  funerals,  such  as  that 
of  Fdlicien  David,  the  composer,  in  1876,  later  that  of 
M.  Harold,  Prefect  of  the  Seine,  and,  later  still,  that  of 
Gambetta.  The  enterrement  civil  of  Victor  Hugo  marked 
another  step  in  the  same  direction  and  it  impressed  thou- 
sands. More,  even,  than  any  of  its  forerunners,  it  set  an 
example  largely  followed  in  later  years. 

When  Zola  heard  of  the  death  of  Hugo  he  felt  deeply 
stirred.  He  remembered  the  days  of  long  ago,  the  happy 
days  of -Provence  when  he  had  learnt  by  heart  page  after 
page  of  the  poet's  writings.  He  had  then  drunk  deeply  of 
Hugo's  sonorous  rhetoric,  and  he  had  not  ceased  to  admire 
his  genius.  The  virtual  failure  of  "  Le  Hoi  s'amuse "  when 
it  was  revived  in  1882  had  pleased  him  from  the  Naturalist 
standpoint;  yet  he  had  not  concealed  his  opinion  that 
many  passages  of  the  play  deserved  applause,  and  in  fact 
he  had  applauded  them.  "Why  not,  indeed?"  he  had 
ejaculated,  turning  to  Edmond  de  Goncourt  whQ  had  ac- 
companied him  to  the  Th&ltre  Frangais.  And  whatever 
criticism  Zola  had  levelled  at  the  productions  of  Hugo's 
declining  years,  whatever  reservations  he  might  make  re- 

15 


226    $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

specting  even  some  of  the  poet's  prime,  he  knew  that  this 
man  had  been  a  Master,  the  most  powerful  that  his  age 
had  produced  in  France,  So  Zola  immediately  despatched 
the  following  telegram  to  M.  George  Hugo,  the  poets  young 
grandson: 

You  will  learn,  perhaps,  some  day,  Monsieur,  that  even  with 
respect  to  Victor  Hugo,  I  claimed  the  rights  of  criticism.  And 
this  is  why,  amid  the  frightful  grief  that  has  befallen  you,  I  desire 
to  tell  you  that  every  heart  has  broken  with  yours. 

Victor  Hugo  was  my  youth.  I  remember  what  I  owe  him. 
ISTo  discussion  is  possible  on  such  a  day  as  this ;  all  hands  must 
unite,  all  the  writers  of  France  must  rise  to  do  honour  to  a 
Master,  and  affirm  the  absolute  triumph  of  literary  genius. 

Pray  believe,  Monsieur,  in  my  deep  and  dolorous  sympathy, 

]§MILE  ZOLA.1 
'  PARIS,  May  22,  1885. 

Besides  writing  his  novel  "L'QEuvre"  that  year,  Zola 
helped  M,  Busnach  to  adapt  "Germinal"  for  the  stage; 
but  when  the  play  was  ready  in  the  autumn,  the  censor- 
ship forbade  its  performance  on  the  ground  that  it  would 
excite  revolutionary  passions.  Zola's  indignation  boiled 
over  at  this  rebuff,  and  with  the  approval  of  Alphonse 
Daudet  and  Edmond  de  Goncourt,  whom  he  consulted,  he 
issued  a  protest  in  "  Le  Figaro,"  trouncing  M.  Ken£  Goblet, 
the  responsible  Minister,  a  fussy  little  advocate  who  played 
the  part  of  a  Radical  when  it  suited  his  purposes,  but  who 
was  really  a  Philistine  dans  I'&me.  However,  the  protest 
had  no  effect,  nor  had  an  offer  to  allow  all  reasonable  altera- 
tions in  the  play  for  the  sake  of  M.  Busnach,  whose  interests 
were  chiefly  at  stake ;  and  it  was  only  in  the  spring  of  1888, 
1  From  the  original  draught  in  the  possession  of  M.  G.  Charpentier. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  227 

when  other  ministers  were  in  office,  that  "  Germinal  *  was  at 
last  produced  at  the  Th&ltre  du  Ch&telet.  It  may  be  con- 
venient to  mention  here  that  for  some  years  subsequent  to 
the  publication  of  "  Germinal"  as  a  novel  there  was  never  a 
strike  in  France  without  some  foolish  and  prejudiced  jour- 
nalists casting  the  blame  on  Zola  and  his  book.  When  in 
1887  D^cazeville  became  the  scene  of  some  terrible  dis- 
turbances, Zola  was  charged  in  many  directions  —  even  in 
the  Chamber  of  Deputies  by  some  of  its  reactionary  mem- 
bers—  with  the  responsibility  of  those  misfortunes.  He 
disdained  to  reply  to  such  ridiculous  accusations ;  but  it  so 
happened  that  a  few  months  previously  (December  27, 
1886)  when  authorising  "  Le  Petit  Rouennais  "  to  publish 
"  Germinal "  serially,  he  had  written  the  following  prefatory 
note,  in  which  he  explained  the  book's  real  purport,  which 
of  course  had  never  been  doubtful  for  sensible  minds : 

"  *  Germinal ?  is  a  work  of  compassion,  not  a  revolutionary  work. 
In  writing  it  my  desire  was  to  cry  aloud  to  the  happy  ones  of  this 
world,  to  those  who  are  the  masters :  '  Take  heed  1  Look  under- 
ground, observe  all  those  unhappy  beings  toiling  and  suffering 
there.  Perhaps  there  is  still  time  to  avoid  a  great  catastrophe. 
But  hasten,  to  act  justly,  for,  otherwise,  the  peril  is  there :  the 
earth  will  open,  and  the  nations  will  be  swallowed  up  in  one  of  the 
most  frightful  convulsions  known  to  the  world's  history.' 

"  I  descended  into  the  hell  of  Labour,  and  if  I  concealed  noth- 
ing, not  even  the  degradation  of  that  sphere,  the  shameful  things 
engendered  by  misery  and  the  huddling  of  human  beings  together 
as  if  they  were  mere  cattle,  it  was  because  I  wished  the  picture  to  be 
complete,  with  all  its  abominations,  so  as  to  draw  tears  from  every 
eye  at  the  spectacle  of  such  a  dolorous  and  pariah-like  existence. 
Those  things,  no  doubt,  are  not  for  young  girls,  but  family  people 
should  read  me.  All  of  you  who  work,  read  what  I  have  written, 


228  SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

and  when  you  raise  your  voices  for  pity  and  justice  my  task  will 
be  accomplished. 

**  Yes,  a  cry  of  pity,  an  appeal  for  justice,  I  ask  no  more.  Should 
the  soil  still  crack,  should  the  disasters  predicted  convulse  the 
world  to-morrow,  it  will  be  because  my  voice  will  have  remained 
unheard." 

Thus,  in  "  Germinal,"  Zola  gave  rein  to  his  humanita- 
rian feelings,  and  in  recognition  thereof  prudes  shrieked 
indignantly :  "  That  man  is  at  it  again  I  What  a  beast  he 
must  be ! "  And  on  their  side  capitalists,  battening  on  the 
labour  of  the  poor  and  alarmed  for  the  safety  of  their  pelf, 
howled  in  chorus :  "  This  book  ought  to  be  suppressed,  it 
certainly  must  not  be  allowed  as  a  play.  It  means  revolu- 
tion, robbery,  rascality  of  every  kind." 

But  Zola,  though  he  suffered  secretly,  —  all  unjust  at- 
tacks brought  him  the  keenest  suffering,  —  hid  it,  and 
passed  on. 

There  was  a  touch  of  humanitarianism  even  in  his  next 
book,  "  L'GEuvre,"  for  it  set  forth,  many  of  the  evils  of  bohe- 
mian  life,  and  embraced  an  appeal  for  woman  in  the  person 
of  the  unhappy  Christine,  its  heroine.  Critics  may  shake 
their  heads,  indeed  some  have  done  so,  and  say  sapiently: 
"  All  this  was  not  art."  They  may  laugh,  too,  at  the  idea  of 
reforming  the  world  by  novels.  But  even  if,  judging  Zola 
by  some  of  his  books,  one  may  occasionally  feel  inclined  to 
set  no  very  lofty  estimate  on  his  artistry,  surely  the  trend 
of  his  works,  the  knowledge  of  their  aim,  the  circumstances 
tinder  which  they  were  written,  must  increase  one's  respect 
for  their  author  as  a  man.  And,  after  all,  what  is  the  mere 
artist?  As  often  as  not  he  is  penned  within  a  fanatical 
creed,  bound  to  narrow  formulas,  blind  to  everything  beyond 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEPOEMER  229 

them,  full  of  prejudice,  and  even  more  ridiculous  at  times 
than  the  Philistines  at  whom  he  rails. 

As  "  L'GEuvre"  dealt  chiefly  with  the  art-world  of  Paris 
at  a  certain  period  of  the  Second  Empire,  it  revived  some  of 
the  passions  which  Zola  had  kindled  by  his  championship 
of  Manet.  By  certain  painters  the  book  was  roundly 
abused  when  M.  Charpentier  published  it  early  in  1886,  * 
on  the  completion  of  the  issue  in  the  "Gil  Bias/'  This 
time  the  demand  was  not  great,  for  by  its  nature <e  I/CEuvre  " 
appealed  more  particularly  to  a  limited  class  of  readers. 
Perhaps  its  sales  would  have  been  even  smaller  had  not 
Zola  woven  into  his  narrative  so  much  interesting  informa- 
tion concerning  himself  in  his  earlier  years. 

No  sooner  was  he  delivered  of  this  book  than  he  turned  to 
the  novel  on  the  French  peasantry  which  had  been  in  his 
mind  at  the  beginning  of  1884.  Already  at  that  time  he 
had  given  it  considerable  thought,  made  notes,  studied  his 
subject  in  books  and  periodicals ;  and  he  now  took  up  the 
work  of  preparation  in  i^eal  earnest.  At  the  very  outset  he 
had  decided  to  lay  the  scene  in  or  near  the  great  grain-pro- 
ducing region  of  La  Beauce,  in  some  degree  because  this 
would  enable  him  to  deal,  en  passant,  with  certain  economic 
questions,  such  as  the  importation  of  American  wheat,  but 
more  particularly  because  both  his  mother  and  his  grand- 
mother, Madame  Aubert,  had  been  Beauceronnes,  and  in  his 
younger  days  he  had  often  heard  them  talk  of  that  part  of 
the  country,  which  presents  various  features  of  interest. 

1  "L'CEuvre,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1886,  18mo,  491  pages.  Some  copies 
on  special  papers.  Fifty-fifth,  thousand  in  1893 ;  sixty-fourth  thousand  in 
1903.  Mr.  Albert  Vandam  prepared  an  English  adaptation  of  this  story 
which  was  published  serially  in  England,  and  afterwards  acquired  by  Vize- 
telly  &  Co.  It  formed  the  basis  of  their  version  of  the  work. 


230    6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEE 

La  Beauce  proper  is  certainly  flat  and  monotonous,  but  its 
confines  are  picturesque,  and  Dourdan,  Auneau,  Org&res,  and 
other  localities  are  associated  historically  with  the  horrible 
crimes  of  the  desperadoes  known  as  chauffeurs,  who  roamed 
the  region  early  in  the  nineteenth  century.  A  strain  of 
brutishness  was  long  to  be  observed  among  some  of  the  in- 
habitants. Withal,  they  are  essentially  French,  that  is  of 
the  borders  of  the  lie  de  France,  for  there  is  no  fixed  type  of 
French  peasant.  Those  of  Provence,  Languedoc,  Burgundy, 
Normandy,  Brittany,  and  other  parts,  all  differ  from  one 
another  in  important  characteristics.  Thus  generalisations 
on  the  subject  of  the  French  peasantry  may  occasionally 
become  ridiculous. 

Nevertheless,  at  the  period  selected  for  Zola's  work,  that 
of  the  Second  Empire,  a  general  resemblance  was  to  be  found 
among  them  in  two  respects.  In  the  first  place  their  igno- 
rance was  very  great.  The  Imperial  Government  which  did 
a  good  deal  to  ameliorate  their  lot  materially,  did  as  little  as 
possible  to  enlighten  and  elevate  their  minds.  They  were, 
so  to  say,  the  backbone  of  the  regime,  and  their  ignorance 
was  its  safeguard  At  the  elections  they  were  led  like  sheep 
to  the  polling  places  to  vote  for  the  official  candidates.  All 
that,  however,  belongs  to  the  past.  Many  changes  have 
occurred  during  the  last  thirty  years,  and  without  entering 
here  into  the  question  of  the  religious  and  secular  schools,  it 
may  be  said  that  under  the  Third  Eepublic  more  has  been 
done  than  at  any  previous  time  for  the  education  of  the 
peasantry.  Some  brutishness  persists  in  various  regions, 
but  all  who  remember  how  widespread  was  illiteracy  before 
the  War  of  1870  know  that  great  improvement  has  been 
effected. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    231 

Today,  however,  even  as  was  formerly  the  case,  there  is 
still  one  trait  common  to  the  French  peasantry  generally. 
As  in  other  countries  there  has  been,  and  is  still,  a  great 
exodus  from  the  rural  districts  to  the  towns  ;  but  those  who 
remain  at  home  are  distinguished  by  their  earth-hunger, 
their  all-consuming  passion  for  the  soil  The  historical 
explanation  of  this  is  perhaps  as  follows  :  For  centuries  the 
peasantry  possessed  little  or  nothing,  and  when  the  Kevolu- 
tion  at  last  placed  the  land  in  their  hands  absolutely,  a 
craving  which  had  descended  from  generation  to  generation 
was  satisfied.  They  seized  the  land  eagerly,  they  clung  to 
it  fiercely,  fearful  lest  it  should  be  taken  from  them,  as, 
for  instance,  when  the  Bourbons  returned,  and  many  of  the 
old  nollesse  sought  the  resumption  of  their  estates.  And  old- 
time  feelings,  the  covetous  cravings  of  ancestors,  the  desper- 
ate tenacity  of  the  generation  of  1815,  have  descended  to 
the  peasants  of  to-day,  and  were  perhaps  even  stronger 
among  those  of  the  Second  Empire,  with  whom  Zola  pro- 
posed to  deal  in  his  novel  "  La  Terre." 

It  was  in  part  on  the  peasant's  brutish  ignorance,  and 
more  particularly  on  his  earth-hunger,  that  he  resolved  to 
base  his  book.  The  following  extract  from  one  of  his 
letters1  will  show  his  intentions: 

" c  La  Terre  *  will  treat  of  the  French  peasant's  passion  for  the 
soil,  his  long  struggle  to  acquire  possession  of  it,  his  crushing 
labour,  his  brief  joys  and  his  great  wretchedness.  He  will  be 
studied  too  in  connection  with  religion  and  politics,  his  present 
condition  being  explained  by  his  past  history;  even  his  future 
will  be  indicated,  that  is  the  part  he  may  possibly  play  in  a 
Socialist  revolution.  All  that,  of  course,  will  lie  beneath  the 
drama  unfolded  in  the  book,  the  drama  of  a  father  dividing  his 
i  Zola  to  Vizetelly  &  Co.,  Paris,  March  24,  1887. 


232    fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMER 

land  among  his  children  before  his  death,  whence  slow  and  abom- 
inable martyrdom  will  ensue,  a  perfect  tragedy  setting  some  sixty 
characters,  an  entire  village  of  La  Beauce7  in  motion;  without 
counting  a  secondary  plot,  the  passionnel  side  of  the  story,  a 
quarrel  between  two  sisters,  separated  by  the  advent  of  a  man, 
still  and  ever  in  connection  with  a  question  of  land.  To  sum  up, 
I  wish  to  do  for  the  peasant  what  I  did  in  *  L'Assommoir '  for  the 
Paris  workman,  that  is,  recount  his  history,  manners,  passions, 
and  sufferings,  such  as  environment  and  circumstances  have  fatally 
made  them." 

In  the  spring  of  1886  Zola  started  on  a  tour  of  investiga- 
tion. He  already  had  some  personal  knowledge  of  the 
region  where  he  proposed  to  lay  the  scene  of  his  story, 
having  gone  there  in  his  mother's  time,  but  that  was  long 
before  he  thought  of  writing  f*  La  Terre."  Among  the  places 
he  now  visited  was  CMteaudun,  where  one  finds  him  early 
in  May,  whence  he  writes  a  friend  an  interesting  letter 
which  Mr.  Sherard  prints,  and  a  portion  of  which  one  may 
venture  to  quote  here ; 

"  I  have  been  here  [Ch&teaudun]  since  yesterday,  and  have  found 
the  spot  I  need.  It  is  a  little  valley,  four  leagues  hence,  in  the 
canton  of  Cloyes,  between  Le  Perche  and  La  Beauce,  and  on  the 
confines  of  the  latter.  I  shall  introduce  a  little  brook  into  it, 
which  will  flow  into  the  Loir  —  such  a  brook,  by  the  way,  exists. 
I  shall  there  have  all  I  require — large  farms  and  small,  a  central 
spot,  thoroughly  French,  a  typical  and  very  characteristic  horizon, 
gay  people  speaking  patois  —  in  short  what  I  always  hoped  for.  .  . 
I  shall  return  to  Cloyes  to-morrow  and  shall  go  thence  to  visit  my 
valley  and  my  bit  of  Beauce  frontier  in  detail.  For  the  day  after 
to-morrow  I  have  an  appointment  with  a  farmer  living  three  leagues 
from  here,  in  La  Beauce,  and  shall  visit  his  farm  in  detail.  ...  I 
remained  to-day  at  CMteaudun  to  attend  a  big  cattle-market." l 
i  Sherard,  Lc.,  p.  227, 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVFXIST  AND  REFORMER  233 

IE  June  Zola  returned  to  M&lan,  and  throughout  that 
year  and  indeed  until  August,  1887,  one  finds  him  busy  with 
this  hook  from  which  he  turned  only  for  a  short  time  in 
February  and  April  to  attend  to  the  production,  first  of  a 
dramatic  version  of  "  Le  Ventre  de  Paris/* l  which  had  at 
least  a  succls  de  curwsiUt  and  secondly  of  a  play  called 
"  Renfe  "  —  based  on  "  La  Curfe  "  —  which  proved  a  re- 
sounding failure  and  was  attended  by  an  acrimonious  con- 
troversy in  the  press.  In  the  opinion  of  the  critics, 
apparently,  Racine's  "Phaedra"  sufficed  for  all  time,  and 
the  idea  of  a  modern  one  in  the  person  of  "  Rende "  was 
monstrous :  thus  Zola  sinned  both  against  the  great  classic 
writer  and  against  modern  society.2 

While  he  was  dividing  his  attention  between  those  plays 
and  his  novel  "  La  Terre,"  France  was  becoming  more  and 
more  absorbed  in  political  questions.  General  Boulanger, 
who  had  been  Minister  of  War  in  the  Freycinet  adminis- 
tration of  1886  had  lost  that  position,  but  his  popularity 
remained  extreme,  fanned  as  it  was  by  a  large  party  of  mal- 
contents of  various  political  schools.  Many  were  actuated 
solely  by  patriotic  considerations,  for  there  had  been  trouble 
with  Germany  over  an  Alsatian  frontier  incident  known 
historically  as  the  Schnsebeld  Affair.  Some  people  who 

1  "Le  Yentre  de  Paris,"  ive  acts,  by  E.  Zola  and  W.  Busnach,  first  per- 
formed at  the  Theatre  de  Paris,  February  25,  1887.     It  differed  considerably 
from  Zola's  novel  with  the  same  title.    Sarcey  slated  it  in  "  Le  Temps  "  and 
Zola  answered  him  in  "Le  Rgaro,"  March  3,  1887. 

2  "ReneV1  five  acts,  by  E.  Zola,  first  performed  at  the  Vaudeville  April 
16,  1887.     On«  may  add  that  in  the  latter  part  of  1887  two  plays  based  on 
tales  by  Zola  were  given  in  Paris :  The  first  was  "  Jacques  Damour,"  one  act, 
by  Le*on  Hennique,  Ode"on,  September  22,  and  the  second,   "Tout  pour 
1'Honneur,"  adapted  from  "  Le  Capitaine  Burle,"  one  act,  by  Henri  Ce*ard, 
Theatre  Libre,  December,  1887;  performed  also  at  the  Theatre  Moliere, 
Brussels,  in  1888. 


234    $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

"believed  the  general  to  be  sincerely  Republican  only  wished 
Mm  to  relieve  them  of  certain  men  of  the  hour,  such  as 
President  Gr&vy,  for  rumours  were  already  abroad  respecting 
the  nefarious  practices  of  the  latter's  son-in-law,  M.  Wilson. 
But  others  were  intent  on  purposes  of  their  own,  the  over- 
throw of  the  Republic  and  the  establishment  of  a  monarchy 
or  a  dictatorship,  into  which  enterprise  they  hoped  to 
inveigle  the  popular  ex-Minister  of  War.  Briefly,  at  this 
time  a  great  crisis  was  gradually  approaching. 

Nevertheless,  though  the  unrest  penetrated  to  the  literary 
world,  the  latter  did  not  neglect  the  subjects  which  more 
particularly  concerned  it,  and  there  was  some  commotion 
among  men  of  letters  when  on  August  18  that  year  (1887) 
a  Le  Figaro "  published  a  manifesto  directed  against  Zola's 
new  work,  which  had  been  appearing  in  the  "  Gil  Bias  " 
since  May,  and  the  concluding  pages  of  which  were  at 
that  very  moment  being  written  at  M&ian.  This  manifesto 
(which,  when  one  recalls  the  presumptuous  preface  to  "  Les 
Soirfes  de  M&Ian,"  may  be  regarded  as  a  Roland  for  an 
Oliver)  was  signed  by  five  young  writers,  Paul  Bonnetain, 
J.  BL  Rosny,  Lucien  Descaves,  Paul  Margueritte,  and  Gustave 
Guiches,  who,  "  in  the  name  of  their  supreme  respect  for  art, 
protested  against  a  literature  devoid  of  all  nobility/'  The 
factum  was  of  some  length,  diffuse,  bristling  with  scientific 
jargon,  and  disfigured  by  a  ridiculous  attack  on  the  personal 
appearance  of  Zola,  whose  leadership  these  young  men 
solemnly  renounced. 

At  that  time  the  best  known  of  the  five  was  Paul 
Bonnetain,  a  Provencal  of  Nimes,  and  a  friend  of  Alphonse 
Daudet,  who  came  from  the  same  city.  Bonnetain  had  then 
published  four  or  five  books,  the  first  of  which,  "  Chariot 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMEK    235 

s'amuse,"  had  so  out-Zola'd  anything  written  by  Zola  him- 
self that  its  author  had  been  prosecuted  for  it.  M.  Rosny 
on  his  side  had  at  that  date  written  two  books, "  Nell  Horn," 
a  ridiculous  story  of  "English  manners,nand"Le  Bilateral," 
a  study  of  Anarchism  and  Collectivism  which  showed  marked 
improvement.  M.  Gustave  Guiches  was  the  author  of  three 
volumes,  none  of  which  had  attracted  attention;  while 
Lucien  Descaves  had  published  four  novels,  and  was  gradu- 
ally emerging  from  obscurity,  though  another  two  years 
were  to  elapse  before  his  venturesome  book,  "  Sous-Off,"  — 
for  which  he  was  tried  and  acquitted  —  made  his  name 
at  all  widely  known.  Finally,  M.  Paul  Margueritte  — 
destined  like  M.  Eosny  to  acquire  a  high  position  in  litera- 
ture, in  conjunction,  be  it  said,  with  his  younger  brother, 
Victor  —  was  as  yet  only  known  by  an  estimable  book 
on  his  father,  the  gallant  general  killed  at  Sedan,  and  a 
couple  of  works  of  fiction,  "  Tous  Quatre "  and  "  Une  Con- 
fession posthume."  The  eldest  of  the  band,  Bonnetain, 
was  in  his  thirtieth  year,  the  others  were  six  or  seven  and 
twenty. 

A  comical  feature  of  the  affair  was  that  of  these  five  in- 
dignant writers,  who  so  solemnly  disowned  <f  the  Master  of 
M&lan,"  only  one,  Bonnetain,  was  personally  known  to  him. 
They  had  met  just  twice.  With  the  others  Zola  had  no 
acquaintance  at  all.  This  appears  clearly  from  the  state- 
ments he  made  to  M.  Fernand  Xau  of  the  "  Gil  Bias,"  who, 
directly  the  manifesto  appeared  and  Zola's  enemies  raised  a 
cry  of  jubilation  at  the  so-called  "  great  Naturalist  schism," 
hurried  to  M£dan  to  interview  the  author  of  "La  Terre." 
A  portion  of  Zola's  declarations  to  M.  Xau  may  well  be 
given  here: 


236    tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

"  I  do  not  know  what  is  thought  in  Paris  of  this  protest  which 
has  brought  me  some  very  kind  letters  from  my  confreres,  but 
it  has  stupefied  me.  I  do  not  know  those  young  men*  They  do 
not  belong  to  my  entourage,  they  have  never  sat  at  my  table,  they 
are  not  my  friends.  If  they  are  disciples  of  mine  —  and  re- 
member I  do  not  seek  to  make  disciples  —  they  are  so  without 
my  knowledge.  Why  then  do  they  repudiate  me  ?  The  situation 
is  original.  It  is  as  if  a  woman  with  whom  a  man  never  had  any 
intercourse  were  to  write  him :  c  I  have  had  quite  enough  of  you, 
let  us  separate ! '  The  man  would  certainly  reply  to  that :  'It's 
all  one  to  me.'  Well,  the  position  is  very  similar. 

"  If  friends  of  mine,  if  Maupassant,  Huysmans,  and  C^ard,  had 
addressed  me  in  such  language  publicly,  I  should  certainly  have 
felt  somewhat  offended.  But  this  declaration  can  have  no  such 
effect  on  me.  I  shall  make  no  answer  to  it  at  all.  ...  It  would 
be  giving  importance  to  a  matter  which  has  none.  When  I  am 
fighting  a  theatrical  battle  I  write  an  open  letter  to  Sarcey  because 
Saroey  certainly  exercises  great  authority.  In  some  literary  dis- 
cussions I  have  written  in  a  similar  way  to  Albert  Wolff,  because 
he  is  an  old  cTircmgueur  to  whom  people  listen.  But  whatever 
may  be  my  feelings  towards  the  five  gentlemen  who  have  signed 
the  document  we  are  speaking  of,  they  must  excuse  me  if  I  don't 
answer,  for  I  have  nothing  to  say  to  them.  ,  ,  .  One  thing  I  can- 
not understand  is  why  these  young  men  should  pass  themselves  off 
as  soldiers  of  mine  deserting  my  flag.  The  only  one  I  know  a 
very,  very  little  is  Bonnetain,  whose  'Opium*  I  have  read,  and 
whose  talent  I  esteem.  He  once  called  on  me;  and  when  he 
appeared  before  the  Tribunal  of  Correctional  Police,  after  '  Chariot 
s'amuse,'  he  wrote  asking  me  to  let  him  have  a  letter  to  be  read  in 
court.  I  sent  him  one,  but  I  advised  him  not  to  use  it,  for  the 
judges,  I  fancy,  hold  me  in  slight  esteem.  Well,  I  met  Bonnetain 
again  at  Daudet's,  at  the  '  Sapho  *  dinner,  and  that  is  all !  .  .  , 
The  comical  part  of  the  affair  is  that  people  used  to  reproach 
me  with  what  they  called  *  my  tail.'  They  were  willing  to  tolerate 
what  I  wrote,  but  they  refused  to  accept  the  productions  of  the 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    237 

young  men  who  claimed  to  be  my  disciples — though.  I  cried  from 
the  house  roofs  that  I  had  none.  *  Cut  your  tail  off!  *  people  re- 
peated. Well,  it  is  cut  off  at  last  It  has  taken  itself  off  of  its 
own  accord,  and  now,  perhaps,  folk  will  be  satisfied."  * 

While  conversing  with  M.  Xau,  Zola  mentioned  that  some 
of  his  friends  believed  the  manifesto  to  be  an  echo  of  the 
opinions  of  certain  persons  whom  he  held  in  high  esteem, 
both  personally  and  from  a  literary  standpoint ;  but  he  had 
reason  to  know  that  the  persons  in  question  were  really 
grieved  by  the  factum  to  which  they  had  given  neither  in- 
spiration nor  assent  The  allusion  was  in  part  to  Alphonse 
Daudet,  by  reason  of  his  friendship  with  Bonnetain,  but 
more  particularly  to  Edmond  de  Goncourt,  as  the  latter's 
"  Journal "  explains.  Goncourt' s  house,  his  grewier,  as  one 
said  in  those  days,  had  become  the  meeting-place  of  a 
number  of  young  authors,  who  looked  up  to  him  much  as 
others  had  looked  up  to  Flaubert.  And  Goncourt,  on  read- 
ing the  manifesto  in  "  Le  Figaro/'  had  immediately  exclaimed, 
"Liable,  why  four  of  them  belong  to  my  grenier/"*  It 
naturally  occurred  to  him  that  Zola  might  think  the  plot 
had  been  hatched  there,  under  his  auspices,  and  he  felt 
extremely  annoyed.  A  journalist  who  called  on  Mm  sug- 
gested an  article  showing  that  he  had  no  responsibility  in 
the  matter;  but  Goncourt  declined  to  hide  behind  others. 
If  anything  had  to  be  said  he  would  say  it  himself.  How- 
ever, he  went  to  dine  at  Champrosay  with  Daudet,  and  after 
they  had  decided  that  the  manifesto  was  very  badly  written 
and  outrageously  insulting,  they  communicated  privately 
with  Zola,  who  was  thus  able  to  tell  M.  Xau  that  whatever 

i  "  Gil  Bias,"  August  21,  1887. 

3  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Yol.  Til,  p.  206. 


238    &ULE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

might  b©  mid  elsewhere,  he  knew  that "  the  certain  persons 
whom  he  held  in  high  esteem  **  had  nothing  to  do  with 
tit©  affair. 

On  the  other  hand,  some  minor  literary  men  adhered  to 
the  protest,  and  the  incident  was  so  sedulously  exaggerated 
by  Zola's  enemies  that  one  might  have  imagined  the  mani- 
festo had  come  from  novelists  of  high  reputation  instead  of 
from  beginners,  who,  with  the  exception  of  Bonnetain,  had 
not  yet  half-won  their  spurs.  The  affair  has  been  related 
in  some  detail  here,  first  because  a  kind  of  legend  has 
gathered  round  it,  a  legend  repeated  in  many  of  the  me- 
moirs issued  after  Zola's  death,  and  secondly  because  it 
ultimately  had  a  notable  result :  the  nomination  of  Zola  as 
&  knight  of  the  Legion  of  Honour. 

Before  recounting  how  that  occurred  it  must  be  men- 
tioned that  **  La  Terre  **  was  published  in  volume  form  late 
in  1887.1  The  attacks  made  upon  it  ever  since  the  so-called 
^Manifesto  of  the  Fivew  then  acquired  yet  greater  in- 
tensity, which  a  little  later  was  checked  somewhat  by  the 
uproar  attending  the  decorations  scandal  in  which  President 
Gravy's  son-in-law  was  implicated,  followed  by  the  Presi- 
dent's resignation,  the  election  of  Carnot,  and  the  increase 
of  the  Boulangist  propaganda.  However,  at  every  pause  in 
that  turmoil  the  denunciation  of  Zola  began  afresh. 

It  was  still  going  on  when  M.  Edmond  Lockroy,  who  had 
known  the  novelist  in  the  old  days  of  "Le  Rappel,"  became 

1  "  La  Terra,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1887,  18mo,  519  pages.  Some  copies  on 
Japan*  Dutch,  and  India  paper.  One  hundredth  thousand  in  1893 ;  one 
hundred  and  thirty-fifth  thousand  in  1903.  Illustrated  edition :  Marpon  and 
Mammarion,  n.  0%  large  8vo,  472  pages  ;  wood-engravings  after  Dues, 
Bochegrosae,  etc.;  one  hundred  and  fifty  copies  on  Dutch  paper  with  the  en- 
gravings on  India  paper. 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER  239 

Minister  of  Public  Instruction.  Married  to  Charles  Hugo's 
widow,  guardian  of  the  great  poet's  grandchildren,  artist, 
author,  Garihaldian  volunteer,  politician,  deputy,  and  minis- 
ter, M.  Lockroy  was  —  and  is  still  —  a  man  of  very  broad 
views.  He  had  formed  a  poor  opinion  of  the  "  Manifesto  of 
the  Five"  at  the  time  of  its  appearance,  and  he  was  dis- 
gusted by  the  ensuing  attacks,  which  emanated  for  the 
most  part  from  the  reactionary  press.  In  these  circum- 
stances he  resolved  on  a  somewhat  bold  course,  that  of 
offering  the  red  ribbon  to  the  much-abused  author,  as  an 
official  recognition  of  his  literary  attainments,  and  as  a  kind 
of  solatium  for  the  insults  heaped  upon  him. 

At  the  same  time  M.  Lockroy  realised  that  as  Zola,  an- 
gered by  the  behaviour  of  Bardoux  in  1878,  had  then 
declared  he  would  not  accept  a  decoration,  it  would  be 
advisable  to  sound  him  unofficially  in  the  first  instance. 
The  Dq.inister  ended  by  selecting  as  his  intermediary  a  lady 
who  knew  the  novelist  well,  and  she  at  once  repaired  to 
M^dan  to  ascertain  his  views.1  At  her  first  words  Zola 
began  to  protest,  reminding  her  of  the  public  declaration  he 
had  formerly  made,  and  adding  that  if  he  now  accepted  the 
red  ribbon  he  would  surely  cover  himself  with  ridicule. 
But  the  minister's  messenger  insisted,  pointing  out,  notably, 
that  prejudiced  and  ignorant  people  were  on  all  sides  accus- 
ing him  of  deliberate  immorality,  even  obscenity,  and  that 
his  official  nomination  to  the  Legion  of  Honour  might  act 

1  The  story  is  told  on  the  authority  of  Madame  Charpentier,  wife  of  the 
publisher,  hut  it  is  somewhat  doubtful  whether  the  lady  in  question  was  her- 
self, though  she  and  her  husband  knew  M.  Lockroy  as  well  as  Zola.  If  not, 
the  intermediary  may  have  been  a  lady  related  to  a  minister  whose  energy 
made  him  famous  during  the  siege  of  Paris.  There  was  such  a  lady  who 
knew  Zola  well.  English  and  American  readers  will  doubtless  regard  the 
whole  affair  as  being  "very  French." 


240  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

as  a  cheek  on  his  insctlters  and  rehabilitate  him  in  the  eyes 
of  the  vulgar.  Afc  last  Zola  began  to  waver,  and  after  con- 
sulting Ms  wife,  who  favoured  the  proposal,  he  gave  his 
assent  to  it  At  the  same  time,  mindful  of  M.  Bardoux' 
sWUy-shaUying,  he  insisted  that  he  should  have  a  formal 
promise  fxom  the  minister  immediately.  It  was  given  him ; 
and  very  soon  afterwards,  the  time  having  come  to  draw  up 
the  list  of  those  who  should  be  decorated  on  the  occasion  of 
the  National  Fete  that  year,  1888,  M.  Lockroy  brought 
Zola's  name  before  the  Council  of  Ministers.  Later,  the 
decree  having  been  signed  and  gazetted,  he  personally  fixed 
the  red  ribbon  to  Zola's  buttonhole  in  the  drawing-room  of 
the  lady  who  had  acted  as  intermediary. 

She,  it  would  appear,  was  not  a  little  astonished  some 
time  tf texwards  when  on  receiving  a  visit  from  the  novelist 
h0  told  her  that  he  had  decided  to  offer  himself  as  a  candi- 
date for  the  French  Academy.  And  he  explained  the  posi- 
tion thus ;  *I  had  the  choice  of  two  paths,  one  leading  to 
the  r«50gnition  of  my  readers  only,  the  other  leading  to 
official  recognition  also.  I  never  troubled  about  the  latter, 
but  you  turned  me  into  that  path,  and  I  am  not  the  man  to 
halt  half  way  on  any  road.  As  there  is  an  Academy  I  shall 
offer  myself  as  a  candidate  directly  a  suitable  opportunity 
occurs.  And,"  he  added  jocularly,  "as  there  is  a  Senate 
also  I  may  even  offer  myself  as  a  candidate  for  that  as 
well  Why  not  ?  Ste.~Beuve  was  a  senator,  and  perhaps  I 
myself  shall  be  one." 

Neither  of  those  aspirations  was  realised;  and,  in  later 
years,  even,  Zola's  decoration  of  the  Legion  of  Honour  was 
almost  taken  from  him.  It  had  come  to  Mm,  not  as  some 
have  said  as  the  result  of  "  Le  B§ve,"  which  was  not  pub- 


Photo  by  Nadar 


Emile  Zola,  1888-1890 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    241 

lished  till  some  months  afterwards,  but  as  the  result  of  "  La 
Terre."  Elsewhere,  however,  that  same  book  had  very  dif- 
ferent consequences  for  another  man,  for  it  led  to  proceed- 
ings at  law  which  ruined  him,  cast  him  into  prison,  and 
hastened  his  death.  How  that  happened  the  following 
chapter  will  tell. 


IX 

THE  BEITISH   PHAEISEES 

1884-1893 

Krst  English  translations  of  Zola— Attacks  on  Zola  in  England — The  Vize- 
tisllys,  glassmakers  and  printers  —  Henry  Vizetelly  and  his  career  —  His 
publishing  business  —  The  six-shilling  novel  —  Ernest  Vizetelly's  work 
for  Vizetelly  &  Co,  —  His  acquaintance  with  Zola  —  His  opinion  of  the 
Zola  translations  —  He  becomes  reader  and  editor  to  Vizetelly  &  Co.  — 
He  partially  expurgates  the  English  version  of  "  La  Terre  "  —  "W.  T.  Stead 
solicits  information  from  Yizetelly  —  The  sales  of  the  Zola  translations  — 
Th«  "  National  Vigilante  "  — <f  The  Maiden  Tribute  "  —  Publicity  v.  Se- 
cwcy  —  Zola's  aim  —  Mendacity  of  some  English  newspapers — Yizetelly's 
catakgw — Samuel  Snath,  M,  P.,  and  "  pernicious  literature " —  A  debate 
in  the  HGOS*  of  Commons — More  newspaper  lies — Vizetelly  committed 
for  trial— -**The  Dacaweron  **  prosecuted —  The  Government  takes  up 
the  Viawtely  prosecmtiom— Vket©lly*s  letter  to  Sir  A.  K.  Stephenson  — 
11  H«*tw  sav®  us  from  0ar  friends !  **  —  VueteUy**  difficulties  —  His  trial, 
October,  1888  —  Purity  of  the  rural  districts  of  England  —  The  case 
stopped  —  Sentence  —  Yizetelly's  undertaking  respecting  the  Zola  books 

—  Zola's  view  of  the  case  —  Expurgation  and  reissue  of  the  translations 

—  Yizetelly  again  summoned  —  He  assigns  his  property  to  his  creditors  — 
Mr.  George  Moore  on  the  "  National  Yigilants  *'-—  Mr.  Frank  Harris's  offer 

—  Ernest  Vizetelly  and  the  responsibility  of  the  new  trial  — Mr.  Cock, 
Q.  C.  —  His  notion  of  duty  to  a  client  —  The  trial,  May  SO,  1889  —  The 
plea  of  "guilty"  — -  Vizetell/s  collapse  —Sir  E.  Clarke  and  Ernest  Vize- 
telly —  Sentence  on  Henry  Vizetelly  —  He  is  sent  to  the  wrong  prison 
— The  legerdemain  of  the  Prison  Commissioners  —  A  question  for  the 
House  of  Commons  —  A  letter  from  Mr.  Labouchere — A  memorial  for 
Henry  Yizetelly's  release  —  Robert  Buchanan  defends  him  —  His  last 
years  and  death. 

THE  earliest  versions  of  Zola's  novels  in  our  language  of- 
fered for  sale  in  Great  Britain  were  of  American  origin. 
Some  American  translations  are  ably  done  —  that  is  well 
known — bnt  the  particular  ones  here  referred  to  were  for 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    243 

the  most  part  ridiculous,  full  of  errors,  and  so  defaced  by 
excisions  and  alterations  as  to  give  no  idea  of  what  the 
books  might  be  like  in  French.  There  were  translations  of 
much  greater  merit  in  Germany,  Italy,  and  Russia ;  but  until 
a  Mr.  Turner  produced  in  London  a  version  of  "  Au  Bonheur 
des  Dames," l  the  English  reader,  ignorant  of  Trench,  really 
had  no  opportunity  of  forming  any  personal  opinion  of  Zola's 
writings.  He  had  to  rest  content  with  the  views  expressed 
in  various  newspapers  and  periodicals  by  men  who  had  read 
Zola  in  the  original.  Among  those  who  wrote  on  him  in  the 
English  reviews  were  Mr.  Andrew  Lang  and  Mr.  Henry 
James ;  but  most  of  the  articles  that  appeared  were  conven- 
iently anonymous,  and  therefore,  perhaps,  essentially  abu- 
sive, as,  for  instance,  an  unsigned  paper  in  "Blackwood's 
Magazine,1*  the  writer  of  which,  not  content  with  attacking 
Zola's  books,  thought  it  as  well  to  libel  him  as  a  man.  At 
long  intervals  there  appeared  some  article  in  his  defence, 
some  statement  of  his  principles  and  his  aims,  the  best  of 
these  being  another  anonymous  paper  called  "  The  Literary 
Creed  of  £mile  Zola,"2  though  even  this  had  a  foolishly 
worded  "  note "  attached  to  it,  showing  how  little  Zola  was 
understood  by  the  average  English  editor.  Such,  then,  was 
the  position :  a  dozen  or  more  worthless  American  versions 
on  the  market,  and  frequent  attacks  in  reviews,  magazines, 
and  newspapers,  when,  in  1884,  the  first  English  series  of 
Zola  translations  was  begun  by  a  London  publisher,  Henry 
Vizetelly,  who,  assisted  by  two  of  his  sons,  traded  as 
"  Vizetelly  &  Co." 

1  See  cmte,  p.  214. 

a  The  writer  has  a  copy  of  this  article,  a  very  able  one,  cut  from  the  pages 
of  a  review  or  magazine,  which,  unfortunately  he  has  been  unable  to  identify. 


244    ftCILB  ZOLAf  NOTELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Before  proceeding  further  the  writer  desires  to  enter  a 
plea  jm?  dtmo  ma.  He,  like  others,  has  his  weak  spot,  and 
the  prwent  may  he  the  only  opportunity  he  will  ever  have 
of  setting  forth  certain  facts  concerning  his  family,  which,  in 
spite  of  considerable  association  with  English  journalism 
tad  literature,  has  frequently  heen  described— chiefly  in 
connection  with  Zola  and  his  writings  — as  Greek,  Hunga- 
rian, Polish,  Italian,  or  Jewish.  That  the  Vizetellys  are  of 
Italian  origin  is  indisputable,  hut  one  may  well  inquire  how 
long  it  takes  to  make  a  family  English  ?  Some  are  accepted 
as  such  after  a  few  years.  Surely,  then,  four  centuries 
ought  to  suffice. 

The  forerunners  of  Henry  Vizetelly  came  from  Yenice1  to 
England  in  the  spacious  days  of  Queen  Elizabeth ;  and  until 
the  end  of  the  seventeenth  century  were  concerned  in  the 
manufacture  of  glass.  One  of  them  became  connected  with 
son*®  works  established  at  Lambeth  in  or  about  1673  by 
Gewgt  Vflliers,  second  Duke  of  Buckingham.  The  first 
sheets  of  blown  glass  for  mirrors  and  coach-windows  made  in 
Great  Britain  came  from  those  works,  which  Evelyn  visited, 
as  mentioned  in  his  "Diary."  But  in  the  early  part  of  the 
eighteenth  century  the  Vizetellys  became  printers,  and  the 
family  papers  describe  them  as  of  "the  parish  of  St.  Bride's 
in  the  city  of  London."  The  Vizetelly,  or  Vizzetelli,  of 
Elkabethan  days  having  been  called  James  (Jacopo),  it 
became  until  recent  years  the  family  rule  that  the  eldest 
son  of  the  eldest  son  should  bear  that  Christian  name. 

1  Researches  made  by  the  late  James  T.  G.  Vizetelly,  who  was  long  tlie 
senior  member  of  the  family  (1818-1897),  traced  it  "back  to  Ravenna,  whence 
it  removed  to  Venice.  Henry  Vizetelly,  when  preparing  his  autobiography,  had 
no  family  documents  before  Mm  and  fell  into  various  errors  in  his  account  of 
Ms  forerunners. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEE    245 

Another  name,  given  to  daughters,  was  the  Biblical  one  of 
Hehetabel,  a  survival,  perhaps,  of  some  family  Puritanism 
in  Commonwealth  days.  But  if  there  were  a  Puritan, 
there  was  certainly  no  Jewish  strain  in  the  family,  the 
men  of  which  in  the  eighteenth  century  married  girls  with 
good  old  English  names,  some  of  them  London  born  and 
others  coming  from  counties  as  far  away  as  Cheshire. 
Thus,  although  the  Vizetellys  seem  to  have  never  forgotten 
their  origin  and  to  have  cultivated  friendship  with  sundry 
notable  Italians  who  settled  in  England,  it  is  certain  that, 
as  generation  followed  generation,  English  blood  predomi- 
nated in  their  veins. 

The  status  of  the  eighteenth-century  Vizetellys  as  printers 
is  difficult  to  determine.  They  were  apparently  in  fair 
circumstances,  but  the  writer  knows  of  no  eighteenth-cen- 
tury book  bearing  their  imprint.  He  believes  they  were 
associated  in  business  with  others  whose  names  alone 
appeared.  The  first  found  actually  trading  in  his  own 
name  was  James  Henry  Vketelly,1  born  in  1790,  and  son 
of  James  Visetelly,  "printer,  of  St.  Bride's  parish  and  of 

1  Even  his  business,  that  of  Vizetelly,  Branstcra  &  Co.,  printers  and 
publishers,  was  at  one  time  known  merely  by  the  name  of  the  "Co./*  that 
is  as  Whitehead's,  though  J,  H.  Vizetelly  was  managing  partner.  He  had 
served  his  apprenticeship  with  the  Coxes,  and  did  not  take  np  his  freedom 
(his  father  and  grandfather  had  been  freemen  of  the  city  before  him)  till 
September,  1827.  He  was  a  man  of  considerable  gifts  ;  he  wrote  for  several 
periodicals,  produced  a  variety  of  verse  (privately  printed  by  himself)  initiated 
the  famous  "Boy's  Own  Book,"  as  well  as  " Cruikshank's  Comic  Almanack" 
of  which  he  became  the  "Rigdnm  Funnidos,"  and  was  one  of  the  best  ama- 
teur actors  of  his  time.  He  was  very  intimate  with  Edmund  Kean,  whom 
he  greatly  resembled  in  appearance,  and  it  is  said  that  more  than  once  when 
Kean  was  hopelessly  drunk  he  took  his  place  on  the  boards.  Such  at  least 
was  the  story  often  told  to  the  writer  by  his  grandmother  (James  Henry's 
widow)  and  expressly  confirmed  to  him  by  an  old  family  friend,  Mr*  Lem- 
priere,  son  of  the  Leinpriere  of  the  "  Classical  Dictionary." 


246    iMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMEE 

Duke  Street,  Lincoln's  Inn  Fields."  James  Henry's  eldest 
son,  James  Thomas  George,  was  apprenticed  to  him  as  a 
printer;  and  his  second  son,  Henry  Richard, after  acquiring 
a  knowledge  of  the  same  trade,  was  placed  first  with 
Bonner  and  afterwards  with  Orrin  Smith,  two  noted  wood- 
engravers.  He  proved  one  of  the  latter's  best  pupils,  and 
ultimately  joined  his  brother  James  in  the  printing  and 
engraving  firm  known  as  Vizetelly  Brothers. 

WMle  thus  engaged,  Henry  Vizetelly1  was  approached 
by  Mr.  Herbert  Ingram,  a  former  news-agent  of  Notting- 
ham, on  the  subject  of  founding  an  illustrated  newspaper. 
The  outcome  (1842)  was  "The  Illustrated  London  News," 
the  first  journal  of  its  kind  in  any  country.  Vizetelly 
afterwards  quarrelled  with  Ingram,  and,  in  1843,  in  con- 
junction with  Mr.  Andrew  Spottiswoode,  started  an  opposi- 
tion ptper,  ^The  Pictorial  Times/'  to  which  some  notable 
men,  including  Douglas  Jerrold  and  Thackeray,  contributed. 
As,  however,  the  printing  and  engraving  business  which 
he  carried  on  with  his  brother  was  becoming  a  large  one, 
Yizetelly  eventually  severed  his  connection  with  journalism 
for  some  years,  and  either  with  his  brother,  or  later  on  his 
own  account,  produced  a  large  number  of  illustrated  books, 
which  from  typographical  and  other  technical  standpoints 
were  often  among  the  best  of  their  time.  He  was  also 
(this  may  interest  American  readers)  the  first  to  introduce 
Poe's  "  Tales  »  and— through  C.  H.  Clarke  — Mrs.  Stowe's 
"Uncle  Tom's  Cabin,3*  to  the  English  public;  and,  having 

1  He  lias  related  the  greater  part  of  his  career  in  his  "Glances  Back 
through  Seventy  Years,"  and  an  account  of  it,  of  some  length,  will  be  found 
in  the  "Dictionary  of  National  Biography.1'  Bat  for  the  purpose  'which  the 
present  writer  has  in  view  he  considers  it  as  well  to  recapitulate  its  chief 
features. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    247 

virtually  discovered  Birket  Foster,  he  also  did  much  to 
popularise  Longfellow  in  England.  Perhaps  Ms  best  work 
as  a  wood-engraver  was  that  done  for  the  edition  of  a  Evan- 
geKne,"  illustrated  with  Foster's  designs. 

Vizetelly  also  took  a  prominent  part  in  the  agitation  for 
the  repeal  of  the  taxes  on  knowledge,  such  as  the  news- 
paper stamp  and  the  paper  duty,  being  honorary  secretary 
to  the  society  for  the  removal  of  the  latter  impost ;  and  in 
1855,  conjointly  with  David  Bogue,  the  publisher  of  most 
of  the  books  he  printed,  he  started  "  The  Illustrated  Times,1* 
on  the  staff  of  which,  as  had  been  the  case  with  "The 
Pictorial  Times,"  there  were  again  many  notable  writers 
and  artists.1  This  newspaper  ran  a  very  successful  course 
for  some  years,  but  about  1860  Vizetelly  —  after  losing  a 
large  sum  over  another  venture,  "The  Welcome  Guest" — 
sold  his  share  in  the  proprietorship  to  Ingram  of  "The 
Illustrated  London  News."  Ultimately,  in  1865,  he  en- 
tered into  an  agreement  to  represent  the  last-named 
journal  on  the  continent  of  Europe,  with  headquarters  in 
Paris,  to  which  city  he  removed  with  his  family.  He  saw 
virtually  all  there  was  to  be  seen  there  during  the  last 
years  of  the  Empire,  the  subsequent  siege  by  the  Germans, 
and,  later,  the  Commune.  He  afterwards  acted  for  "The 
Illustrated  London  News"  as  a  "special"  in  different 
parts  of  Europe,  and  became  British  wine  juror  at  various 
international  exhibitions,  for  he  had  made  a  particular 
study  of  wines  in  the  regions  where  they  were  produced, 

1  Among  others,  James  Hannay,  Edmund  Yates,  Eobert  Brough,  G-.  A. 
Sala,  Sutherland  Edwards,  J.  C,  Parkinson,  Augustus  Mayhew,  Frederick 
and  James  Greenwood,  Tom  Robertson,  John  Hollingshead,  "Phiz,"  Birket 
Foster,  Henry  Meadows,  Gustave  Dore*,  Charles  Keene,  Edmond  Morin, 
Gustave  Janet,  the  Claxton  sisters,  Matt.  Morgan,  etc. 


248    tHJUt  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

mad  wrote  on  them  at  length  both  in  "The  Pall  Mall 
Gazette  **  aad  in  a  series  of  popular  volumes.  Other  sub- 
jects also  attracted  his  pen;  the  best  of  his  numerous 
literary  efforts  being  probably  a  work  on  the  famous  Dia- 
mond Necklace  scandal,  and  another  on  Berlin  as  it  was 
when  Bismarck  had  constituted  the  new  German  Empire. 

Such,  then,  was  the  man  who  in  1880  joined  the  ranks 
of  the  London  publishers.  He  was  at  that  time  sixty  years 
old  but  still  full  of  energy,  and  he  gave  great  personal 
attention  to  his  business,  though,  as  already  mentioned,  he 
had  the  assistance  of  two  sons.  He  had  been  twice  mar- 
ried, and  of  a  numerous  family  four  sons  and  a  daughter 
were  then  living.  The  sons  whom  he  had  with  Mm  were 
the  younger  ones,  Arthur  and  Frank  Vketelly  ;  *  their  elder 
brothers,  then  abroad,  being  Edward2  and  Ernest,  the 
present  writer,  who  for  convenience  proposes  to  refer  to 
bixoadf  by  his  Christian  name  throughout  this  particular 


*  Arthur  and  Frank  Horace  Yizetelly,  both  born  at  Kensington,  the  former 
on  October  Si,  1855,  the  latter  on  April  2,  1864.     Both  educated  at  East- 
bourne  and  ia  France,    The  former  has  written  and  edited  various  English 
educational  works  and  periodicals.    The  latter,  resident  in  New  York  since 
1801,  has  since  become  supervisor  of  the  editorial  work,  and  secretary  of  the 
editorial  board  of  the  "  Jewish  Encyclopedia,"  and  associate  editor  of  the 
*'  Standard  Dictionary,"  besides  helping  to  produce  several  other  well-known 
works  of  reference.    In  1901,  the  Governor  of  Bermuda  having  given  him 
special  access  to  the  Boer  prisoners,  he  wrote  several  papers  on  their  condition. 
He  has  also  written  on  Zola  in  American  periodicals. 

*  Edward  Henry  Vizetelly,  born  at  Chiswick,  January  1,  1847,  educated 
at  Eastbourne  and  St.  Qmer,  war  and  special  correspondent,  editor  of  "  The 
Times  of  Egypt,"  Cairo,  and  afterwards  on  "Le  Journal,"  Paris.    He  came 
to  London  about  1893,  worked  there  as  an  author  and  journalist,  and  trans- 
lated some  of  Zola's  novels.    He  died  in  1903.    He  had  been  orderly  officer 
to  General  Garibaldi  in  1870,   and  later  an  officer  of  Bashi-bazouks  under 
Mouktar  Pasha.     "While  in  the  East  he  had  assumed  the  pseudonym  of 
"Bertie  Clere,"  by  which  he  was  generally  known,  there. 


6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    249 

One  of  the  first  ventures  of  the  new  business,  a  series  of 
sketches  of  English  society,  entitled  "  The  Social  Zoo,"  and 
published  in  parts,  was  badly  launched  and  dropped  before 
completion ;  but  some  sections  of  it,  by  E.  (X  Grenville- 
Murray,  attracted  great  attention  and  sold  widely  on  being 
reissued  in  volume  form.  Sala's  "Paris  Herself  Again** 
and  other  books  were  also  very  successful;  but  when 
Vizetelly —  who  by  reason  of  his  long  residence  in  Paris 
took  great  interest  in  French  literature  —  produced  a  series 
of  cheap  translations  of  works  of  high  repute  in  France  — 
novels  and  tales  by  Daudet,  Theuriet,  About,  Malot,  Cher- 
buliez,  George  Sand,  Mdrimde,  and  others  —  there  was  little 
or  no  demand  for  them,  though  a  large  amount  of  money 
was  spent  in  advertisements.  Indeed  it  soon  appeared  that 
if  French  fiction  was  to  be  offered  to  English  readers  at  all 
it  must  at  least  be  sensational;  and  Vizetelly  therefore 
started  a  cheap  series  of  Gaboriau's  detective  stories,  which 
found  a  large  and  immediate  market.  The  business  gradu- 
ally expanded,  and  before  long,  in  addition  to  miscellaneous 
works  by  Sala,  Grenville-Murray,  and  others,  the  firm  took 
up  English  fiction  in  a  new  form. 

Mr.  George  Moore,  the  novelist,  having  found  the  circu- 
lating libraries  opposed  to  some  of  his  books,  protested 
vigorously  against  the  three-volume  system  which  placed 
English  fiction  at  the  libraries'  mercy.  He  held  that  all 
novels  ought  to  be  sold  direct  to  the  public,  and  many 
other  writers  agreed  with  him.  Mr.  Moore  became-  one 
of  Vizetelly  &  Co/s  authors,  and  the  firm  thereupon  put 
the  theory  of  direct  sale  to  the  public  into  practice.  They 
abandoned  the  three-volume  system  altogether,  issuing  their 
new  novels  in  one  volume  only ;  and  it  was  Henry  Vizetelly 


250  £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

who  feed  the  price  at  six  shillings,  to  be  lowered,  after  the 
earlier  editions,  to  three  shillings  and  sixpence  —  those 
being  the  figures  which  still  prevail  today.  When  therefore 
in  later  years  the  three-volume  novel  was  finally  slain  it  was 
somewhat  impudent  on  the  part  of  certain  publishers  to 
issue  advertisements  claiming  all  the  merit  of  the  change  ; 
for  long  before  they  or  others  joined  the  movement,  Viz- 
etelly  &  Co.,  as  their  catalogues  show,  were  issuing  a  whole 
series  of  novels  at  the  popular  price,  and  quoting,  in  cordial 
approval  of  their  initiative,  an  extract  from  an  article  in 
*  The  Saturday  Review/  Doubtless  the  one-volume  system 
has  not  done  all  that  was  predicted  for  it,  but  it  has  cer- 
tainly been  an  improvement  on  the  old  one,  and  it  may  be 
fairly  claimed  that  Mr.  George  Moore  and  Henry  Yizetelly 
were  ita  pioneers* 

After  the  establishment  of  Ms  publishing  business, 
YiieteUy  had  communicated  with  Ms  son  Ernest,1  who 
WES  then  living  in  Paris  and  had  friends  and  acquaintances 
among  writers,  publishers,  and  booksellers  there.  Several 
suggestions  which  he  made  in  the  course  of  the  next  few 
years  were  adopted  by  the  firm.  However  the  idea  of 
publishing  English  translations  of  Zola's  works  did  not 
originate  with  him.  As  a  journalist  he  had  to  keep  him- 
self informed  respecting  everything  that  occurred  in  Paris ; 

1  Ernest  Alfred  Yizetelly,  born  at  Kensington,  November  29,  1853. 
Educated  at  Eastbourne  and  at  the  Lyce*e  Imperial  Bonaparte,  Paris.  Became 
a  war  correspondent  (youngest  on  record)  in  1870.  Was  in  Paris  during  part 
of  the  siege ;  passed  through  the  German  lines  to  Versailles ;  subsequently 
joined  Chanz/s  army  and  described  his  overthrow  at  Le  Mans  and  retreat  on, 
Laval  ("Pall  Mall  Gazette").  Was  in  Paris  throughout  the  Commune,  and 
remained  on  the  Continent  for  many  years,  chiefly  as  an  English  newspaper 
correspondent,  but  from  time  to  time  co-operated  with  his  father  in  the 
latter's  studies  on  wines  in  France  and  other  countries. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    251 

and  lie  was  fairly  familiar  with  what  had  been  done, 
written,  and  said  there  over  a  long  term  of  years,  particu- 
larly as  even  in  his  school-days  he  had  begun  to  assist 
his  father  as  a  newspaper  correspondent.  Thus  he  was 
already  acquainted  with  the  salient  features  of  Zola's 
career,  the  novelist's  long  and  arduous  battle  for  mastery* 
He  had  not  read  all  the  Eougon-Macquart  volumes  then 
published,  but  he  had  followed  the  exponent  of  Naturalism 
in  his  various  newspaper  campaigns,  and  he  had  seen  most 
of  the  plays  based  on  his  books.  Again,  he  was  the  only 
member  of  his  family  who,  at  that  time,  had  ever  met  the 
novelist.  Not  long  after  the  Franco-German  "War  Zola 
had  been  pointed  out  to  him  by  an  artist  as  "  the  man  who 
had  championed  Manet";  and  since  then  Vizetelly  had 
seen  and  elbowed  him  on  various  occasions  in  places  of 
public  resort.  But  only  once  had  there  been  any  real 
conversation  between  them,  in  the  presence  of  others,  at 
the  Theatre  des  Folies-Bergfere,  with  which  Vizetelly  had 
been  for  a  time  connected.1 

It  may  be  added  that  Vizetelly's  life  in  France  had  in- 
clined him  to  the  outspokenness  of  the  French,  and  that 
experience  had  shown  him  there  was  much  rottenness  in 
Parisian  society.  Thus  he  had  no  personal  prejudice  against 
Zola's  writings,  which  contained,  he  knew,  a  vast  amount  of 
truth.  But  he  also  knew,  likewise  by  experience,  that 
whenever  any  horrible  scandal  arose  in  Paris,  the  English 
newspapers  would  only  print  a  small  portion  of  the  truth, 

i  "The  Lorer's  Progress,"  by  JE.  A.  Yizetelly,  London,  Chatto;  New- 
York,  Brentano,  1901,  Book  II,  Chap.  V.  In  that  novel  the  Folies 
Bergere  is  called  the  "Paradis  Paiisien,"  Zola  "Rota,"  and  his  book 
"L'Asaommoir,"  "La  Matraque." 


252    iHILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

aad  he,  as  a  correspondent^  was  thus  often  debarred  from 
making  a  plain  statement  of  facts  of  general  interest,  such  as 
sometimes  affected  the  moral  status  of  men  of  very  high 
position.  Moreover,  although  Vizetelly  had  left  England  in 
his  boyhood,  and  in  subsequent  years  had  only  now  and 
again  spent  a  few  days  or  weeks  there  (apart  from  one 
sojourn  of  about  twelve  months*  duration),  his  own  work, 
and  the  frequent  perusal  of  English  books  and  publications 
had  kept  Mm  to  a  certain  point  in  touch  with  his  kinsfolk. 
And,  so  far  as  he  could  judge,  English  literature,  like  Eng- 
lish journalism,  was  under  the  thumb  of  Mrs.  Grundy.  He 
had  seen  no  sign  indicating  that  Naturalism  would  even 
secure  a  hearing  in  England.  When,  therefore,  in  1884,  he 
suddenly  heard  that  Vketelly  &  Co.  were  about  to  produce 
**  L'Assommoir  w  and  **  Nana  "  in  an  English  dress,  it  seemed 
to  him  that  the  firm  was  taking  an  audacious  course,  and 
he  did  not  hesitate  to  write  and  say  so.  He  was  answered, 
that,  being  resident  abroad,  he  did  not  fully  understand  the 
position  j  and,  as  some  difficulty  had  arisen  with  the  trans- 
lation of  **  L'Assommoir,"  he  was  asked  to  translate  a  small 
portion  of  it,  some  chapter  towards  the  end  of  the  book, 
which  he  did.  That,  for  the  time,  was  the  extent  of  his 
share  in  the  Zola  translations. 

The  idea  of  publishing  those  translations  originated,  then, 
with  Henry  Vizetelly,  unless,  indeed,  it  was  suggested  to 
him  by  somebody  else.  In  1885  his  son  Ernest,  on  going 
to  London,  found  the  firm  doing  a  large  and  increasing 
business.  In  addition  to  French  and  English  writers,  several 
Eussian  authors,  Tolstoi,  Dostoieffsky,  and  Lermontoff, — 
who  were  followed  a  little  later  by  Gogol,  —  had  been  added 
to  the  firm's  catalogue.  A  series  of  reprints  of  the  old 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOEMEE    253 

dramatists,  the  well-known  "Mermaid  Series,"  was  being 
projected ; l  and  the  Zola  translations,  so  far  as  they  then 
went,  were  in  wide  demand.  This  surprised  Ernest  Vizetelly, 
whose  anticipations  had  been  so  different  But  he  yielded 
to  evidence,  and  even  began  to  think  that  there  was  at  last 
some  prospect  of  English  people  dropping  the  hypocrisy 
which  had  clung  to  them  so  long  and  looking  unpleasant 
facts  in  the  face. 

He  returned  to  Paris,  where  he  remained  till  1887,  when 
various  reasons  induced  him  to  take  up  his  residence  in 
London.  He  had  married  some  years  previously,  and 
though  his  wife  was  French  he  particularly  desired  that  his 
children  should  retain  his  nationality.  Moreover,  he  now 
had  the  offer  of  a  great  deal  of  work  from  his  father,  who 
was  projecting  various  reprints  of  French  eighteenth-century 
books,  as  well  as  expensive  and  sumptuous  editions  of  "  The 
Heptameron,"  "  The  Decameron,"  and  the  works  of  Kabelais. 
Some  thousands  of  pounds  were  spent  on  those  under- 
takings, but  only  the  first-named  eventually  saw  the  light.2 
Arriving  in  London,  Ernest  Vizetelly  became  one  of  the 
readers  and  editors  of  his  father's  firm ;  but  for  one  reason 
or  another  he  still  had  little  to  do  with  the  Zola  translations. 
His  father  contemplating  a  new  edition  of  the  Gramont 
Memoirs,  he  revised  the  translation  alleged  to  have  been 
edited  by  Sir  Walter  Scott,  and  corrected  some  scores  of 

1  Vizetelly  &  Co.  published  the  first  fifteen  roluraes  of  this  series,  which 
on  the  firm  going  into  liquidation  was  acquired  by  Mr.  Fisher  Unwin. 

2  The  edition  in  five  Tolumes  with  the  Freudenberg  and  Duncker  plates, 
known  as  that  of  the  "  Society  of  English  Bibliophiliats/1  but  really  issued 
by  Mr.  J.  C.  Nimmo  after  Vizetelly  &  Co.  had  gone  into  liquidation.    Professor 
Saintsbury  wrote  for  this  edition  an  essay  on  the  French  work;  but  the  actual 
translation  of  the  tales  was  made  by  Mr.  J.  S.  Chartres,  and   the  present 
writer  supplied  the  annotation,  the  memoir  of  Queen  Margaret,  etc. 


254    ifcMILB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMEE 

errors  which  he  found  in  it  For  the  rest,  his  time  was 
largely  spent  in  researches  respecting  the  proposed  version 
of  *  The  Heptameron/*  of  which  he  was  editor. 

Meanwhile  Vketelly  &  Co.  were  still  issuing  translations 
of  modem  French  fiction,  and  Mr.  George  Moore,  having 
occasion  to  go  to  Paris,  spoke  on  the  firm's  hehalf  to  Zola 
respecting  *'  La  Terre,"  which  book  the  novelist  was  then 
preparing.  An  arrangement  was  made  for  the  sale  of  the 
British  rights  to  Vizetelly  &  Co.,  who  then  knew  virtually 
nothing  of  the  work,  apart  from  the  fact  that  it  would  deal 
with  the  French  peasantry.  Some  time  afterwards,  however, 
Zola  supplied  a  brief  outline  of  his  book  in  a  letter  which 
has  been  already  quoted.1  Then  various  delays  ensued, 
several  months  elapsing  before  proofs  of  the  earlier  chapters 
were  forwawled  to  Vizetelly  &  Ca  Those  proofs  were 
handed  to  a  translator  with  whom  some  difficulty  arose,  in 
such  wise  that  they  were  transferred  to  another,  and  Ernest 
Vizetelly  was  requested  to  read  and  check  the  English 
proofs,  a  task  which  he  occasionally  undertook  in  connec- 
tion with  various  translations.  He  was  immediately  struck 
by  the  boldness  of  Zola's  story,  which  seemed  to  surpass  in 
outspokenness  any  of  the  novelist's  previous  works.  And  at 
the  very  outset  he  deemed  certain  excisions  and  alterations 
advisable. 

For  instance,  he  found  one  of  the  characters,  Hyacinthe 
Fouan,  called  by  the  nickname  of  "Jesus  Christ,"  and 
afflicted  with  a  nasty  infirmity.  The  nickname  did  not 
particularly  surprise  him,  for  during  the  many  years  he  had 
spent  in  Paris,  he  had  known  more  than  one  young  artist 
cultivating,  notably  as  regards  hair  and  beard,  a  resemblance 

i  Sea  ante,  £.  231. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    255 

to  the  traditional  portraits  of  the  Christ,  and  going  by  that 
nickname  both  in  the  studios  and  the  caKs  frequented  by 
artists.  It  seemed  to  him  quite  possible  that  Zola  had 
found  it  among  the  peasantry  whom  he  described.  But, 
however  that  might  be,  Vizetelly  felt  that  the  nickname 
would  give  offence  to  English  readers,  and  so  he  did  not 
hesitate  to  expunge  it  from  the  proofs  submitted  to  him. 
He  felt  also,  that  although  Hyacinthe's  infirmity  might  be 
true  tt  ife,  it  would  also  give  offence  to  people  who  no 
longer  -ead  Sterne,  and  who  knew  little  or  nothing  of 
Rabelais.  Accordingly  expurgation  again  ensued. 

But  as  successive  instalments  of  the  proofs  reached  Ernest 
Vizetelly,  he  found  in  them  a  good  deal  of  matter,  which  in 
his  opinion  needed  "  toning  "  for  the  English  reader.  And 
he  was  confronted  by  a  difficulty  which  pursued  him  sub- 
sequently when  he  himself  translated  some  of  Zola's  works ; 
that  is  to  say,  the  French  proofs  arrived  in  sections,  the 
translation  was  supplied  in  the  same  manner,  and  it  was 
therefore  difficult  to  determine  what  incidents  and  facts 
might  be  really  essential,  and  how  far  expurgation  might 
be  carried  without  rendering  the  book  unintelligible.  Vize- 
telly spoke  on  the  matter  to  one  of  his  brothers,  and  ulti- 
mately he  put  the  work  on  one  side,  deciding  to  wait  for  its 
completion.  Considerable  delay  ensued  in  the  publication 
of  the  translation.  Meantime,  towards  the  close  of  1887, 
the  original  work  appeared  in  Paris,  and  was  virulently 
attacked  by  Zola's  enemies ;  while  a  rumour,  subsequently 
contradicted,  spread  to  the  effect  that  translations  had  been 
stopped  in  various  countries.  It  therefore  seemed  advisable 
to  proceed  cautiously.  Finally  the  matter  was  laid  before 
Henry  Vizetelly,  the  proofs  of  the  English  version  were 


256    ImiLE  ZGLA*  NOVELIST  AND  KJEFOKMEE 

examined  from  beginning  to  end,  and  in  conjunction  with 
his  son  Emeafc,  he  struck  out  or  modified  a  very  large 
number  of  passages,  with  the  result  that  much  of  the 
work  had  to  be  reimposed*  It  may  be  said,  then,  that  the 
translation  as  published  was  undoubtedly  an  expurgated 

one. 

About  this  time,  that  is  in  March,  1888,  Mr.  W.  T.  Stead, 
then  editor  of  «  The  Pall  Mall  Gazette,"  who  had  made  him- 
self notorious  some  time  previously  by  a  series  of  articles  on 
w  The  Maiden  Tribute  of  Modern  Babylon,"  applied  to  Vize- 
telly  &  Co.  for  some  information  respecting  the  sales  of 
the  various  translations  from  the  French,  which  the  firm 
was  publishing,  and  which  certainly  circulated  widely  and 
attracted  great  attention.  When  the  matter  was  laid  before 
Henry  "Vizetelly,  Ms  »on  Arthur,  who  took  a  large  part  in 
th©  management  of  the  business,  suggested  that  the  request 
should  not  be  entertained,  for,  said  he,  it  was  a  very  unusual 
one,  and  publishers  were  not  in  the  habit  of  supplying  the 
public  with  all  sorts  of  particulars  about  their  affairs. 
That,  at  the  time  in  question,  was  quite  true ;  but  Henry 
Vketelly,  who  saw  no  objection  to  the  request,  supplied  Mr. 
Stead  with  an  article  in  which  he  gave  numerous  particulars 
concerning  the  sales  of  his  publications.  The  article,  as  the 
sequel  showed,  was  somewhat  injudiciously  worded  in 
various  respects.  For  instance,  it  conveyed  an  impression 
that — unlike  the  crude  and  mangled  American  versions  of 
Zola  which  were  then  in  the  market  — the  Vizetelly  trans- 
lations of  that  author  were  absolutely  unmutilated.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  none  of  them  was  an  exact  Replica  of  the 
original,  all  had  been  expurgated  more  or  less,  though  care 
had  invariably  been  taken  to  preserve  the  continuity  of  the 


ZOLA,  HOVELIST  AND  REFOKMER 

narrative.  Further,  though  Vizetelly  had  very  good  grounds 
for  asserting  that  he  reckoned  it  a  bad  week  when  the  sale 
of  the  Zola  translations  fell  helow  a  thousand  volumes,  this 
statement,  which  seemed  at  first  sight  to  indicate  a  very 
large  circulation,1  was  again  indiscreet,  and  was  eagerly 
seized  hold  of  and  magnified  hy  those  who  were  already 
lying  in  wait  to  destroy  him. 

Of  the  inner  workings  of  that  conspiracy  the  writer  might 
perhaps  say  a  good  deal ;  but  for  the  purposes  of  this  narra- 
tive, the  facts  which  appeared  on  the  surface  are  sufficient. 
A  campaign  was  started,  chiefly  against  Vketelly  &  Co.,  and 
ostensibly  for  the  purpose  of  protecting  boys  and  girls, 
against  what  was  called  "  pernicious  literature."  A  society 
styling  itself  the  "  National  Vigilance  Association  "  eventu- 
ally took  the  matter  in  hand.  Its  secretary,  the  person 
usually  representing  it  in  public,  was  a  man  named  Coote ; 
the  agent  for  its  publications  was  a  Protestant  fanatic 
named  Kensit;2  among  those  who  gave  it  their  counte- 
nance was  W.  T.  Stead,  then,  as  already  mentioned,  editor  of 
"The  Pall  Mall  Gazette."  The  publications  of  Kensit  on 
"  The  High  Church  Confessional,"  and  those  of  Stead  on  "The 
Maiden  Tribute  of  Modern  Babylon,"  would  have  seemed 
to  indicate  that  both  Kensit  aftd  Stead  favoured  the  doc- 
trine of  outspokenness  or  publicity  to  which  Zola  gave  effect 
in  his  novels,  the  doctrine  which  he  summed  up  in  the 

1  About  this  time  Yizetelly  &  Co.  were  selling  no  fewer  than  eighteen  of 
Zola's  books.  And  a  sale  of  one  thousand  copies  a  week,  representing  one 
of  fifty-two  thousand  a  year,  would  not  really  be  large  in  a  publisher's  estima- 
tion. It  would  represent  an  average  of  less  than  three  thousand  copies  a  year 
for  each  work,  but  of  course  the  newer  volumes  sold  more  largely  than  the 
older  ones. 

*  "Truth,"  September  22,  1898, 

17 


258  ZOLA,  NOYEIIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

words,  **Let  tU  be  set  forth  so  that  all  may  be  healed/* 
But  although  in  the  estimation  of  Eensit  and  Stead  it  was 
quite  right  that  they  should  speak  out,  the  idea  of  allowing 
Zola  the  same  privilege  was  nonsense.  He  was  Belial, 
whereas  of  them  it  might  be  said :  "  Mark  the  perfect  men, 
and  behold  the  upright**  Thus  they  might  circulate  de- 
scriptions of  vice,  —  even  allow  them,  as  in  the  case  of  "  The 
Maiden  Tribute,"  to  be  hawked  about  the  streets  in  penny 
numbers l ;  but  Zola  must  not  picture  vice  in  his  books. 

Among  the  members  of  the  so-called  "  National  Vigilance 
Association"  were  various  parsons  and  priests  who  naturally 
abominated  such  an  infidel  as  Zola,  and  some  of  whom  sub- 
sequently traduced  him  freely.  These  might  accept  the 
outspokenness  of  a  Stead,  but,  generally  speaking,  they 
represented  the  doctrine  of  reticence  and  secrecy  as  opposed 
to  that  of  publicity.  Theirs  was  the  policy,  pursued  through 
the  ages,  of  wrapping  everything  up,  cloaking  everything 
over,  and  they  were  lost  in  anger,  horror,  and  amazement 
when  they  found  a  different  course  being  pursued.  They 
ignored  Zola's  position  altogether,  though  for  years  he  had 
been  calling  to  them  and  those  who  resembled  them :  "  You 
claim  to  reform  the  world,  you  preach  and  you  prate ;  but 
although  your  endeavours  may  be  honest  you  do  little  or  no 
good.  Evil  exists  on  all  sides,  society  is  rotten  at  the  core ; 
but  you  merely  cover  up  abominations,  you  even  feign  at 
times  to  ignore  their  existence,  though  they  lie  little  below 

1  "For  more  than  a  week,  until '  The  Daily  Telegraph '  took  the  matter  in 
hand,  the  sale  of  *  The  Maiden  Tribute '  converted  London  into  a  pandemo- 
nium. None  who  lived  in  the  vicinity  of  the  Strand  at  that  time  will  forget 
the  shouting  of  the  vendors  of  the  obscenity — often  children  only  twelve 
years  of  age."  —  George  Moore,  on  the  "New  Censorship  of  Literature,"  in 
"The  New  York  Herald,"  London  edition,  July  28,  1889. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    259 

the  surface  and  poison  all  around  them.  The  system  of 
reticence  and  concealment  which  you  pursue  is  a  profound 
mistake.  It  is  one  of  the  many  consequences  of  that 
system  that  thousands  of  girls  are  cast  every  year  into  the 
aims  of  seducers,  that  thousands  of  young  men  kneel  at  the 
feet  of  harlots.  Abortion  is  practised  among  the  married  as 
among  the  unmarried.  Drunkenness  is  in  your  midst 
Your  prisons  are  full.  Your  gibbets  and  guillotines  are 
always  in  use.  Cheating  and  swindling  are  commonplaces 
of  your  every-day  life.  Well,  I  am  resolved  to  tear  the  veil 
asunder,  to  set  forth  everything,  to  conceal  nothing.  I  shall 
shock  the  world  undoubtedly,  but  it  is  only  by  bringing 
things  to  light,  by  disgusting  people  with  themselves  and 
their  surroundings,  that  there  will  be  a  possibility  of 
remedying  the  many  evils  which  prey  on  the  community 
at  large*  Eighteen  hundred  years  have  elapsed  since  the 
carpenter  of  Nazareth  walked  the  earth.  You  and  your 
forerunners  have  had  those  eighteen  hundred  years  at  your 
disposal.  What  have  you  done  in  them?  How  much,  or 
rather  how  little  real  good  have  you  effected  with  all  your 
organisations,  your  great  authority,  your  exceeding  wealth, 
your  devotion,  your  piety,  your  talent,  which  at  times  has 
blossomed  into  genius?  You  have  extirpated  nothing 
whatever ;  your  system  has  tended  chiefly  to  the  dissemi- 
nation of  hypocrisy  and  cant ;  you  have  failed  egregiously ; 
and  to  explain  your  failure  you  preach  the  ridiculous  doc- 
trine of  the  Fall,  invented  expressly  to  account  for  the 
impotency  of  priestcraft.  I  have  nothing  to  say  —  as  yet 
—  on  the  subject  of  your  belief  in  a  future  state,  of  your 
system  of  rewards  or  penalties  after  life,  for  good  or  evil 
conduct  in  the  world,  though  it  is  one,  half  threat  and  half 


200    &CILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

bribe,  fear  which  there  should  be  no  occasion.  But  I  take 
human  society  as  it  is,  and  by  exposing  the  errors  of  its 
ways  I  hope  to  set  afoot,  to  encourage  among  practical 
reformers,  a  movement  of  social  regeneration,  which  will 
perhaps  achieve,  in  a  few  centuries,  a  happier  result  than 
you,  even  though  appealing  to  the  supernatural,  have 
achieved  in  so  many.  And  in  any  case  I  intend  to  try, 
whatever  abuse  you  may  ihower  on  me,  whatever  mud  you 
may  fling  at  me,  mud  which  will  some  day,  perhaps,  recoil 
upon  yourselves." 

But  how  could  men,  trained  to  teach  one  and  another 
superstition,  wrapt  in  all  the  prejudices  of  their  heredity 
and  their  caste,  accept  such  arguments  as  those  even  if  they 
had  heard  of  them  1  The  mere  idea  that  man  might  regener- 
ate himself  without  the  aid  of  the  supernatural  was  impious 
to  their  minds ;  the  idea  of  stating  the  truth  plainly,  of  rous- 
ing people  by  shocking  them,  was  horrible  to  their  delicacy 
of  feeling,  for  they  belonged  to  a  white-livered  generation, 
whence  all  robustness  had  departed.  Perhaps  if  this 
Zola  had  been  one  of  themselves  they  might  have  tolerated 
him,  but  he  did  not  bow  to  the  supernatural,  his  creed  was 
different,  and  he  was  therefore  a  rival,  an  enemy,  particu- 
larly as  he  contemplated  a  world  whence  they  would  be 
banished,  as  it  would  need  none  of  their  ministrations. 

Thus  the  campaign  began  and  soon  found  an  echo  in  the 
newspapers.  At  that  time  probably  there  were  not  twenty 
journalists  in  all  England  who  had  read  Zola's  essays  and 
critical  papers  in  which  he  defined  his  position  and  the 
purport  of  his  novels.  In  the  latter,  as  is  well  known,  he 
abstained  from  preaching.  There  is  nothing  of  the  nature 
of  a  sermon  in  the  whole  series  of  "  Les  Rougon-Macquart " 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REF01MER    261 

until  one  reaches  "Le  Docteur  Pascal";  and  one  must 
admit  that,  although  Zola  had  freely  expounded  his  views 
elsewhere,  the  omission  of  those  views  from  his  novels 
was  detrimental  to  him  and  them  among  those  people  who 
could  not  rightly  understand  any  exposure  of  vice  unless 
it  were  accompanied  hy  preaching.  Had  he  preached,  the 
clergy,  so  many  of  whom  believe  preaching  to  be  the  chief 
function  of  their  ministry,  might  well  have  been  on  his 
side,  and  even  "  Blackwood's  Magazine  "  might  then  have 
hesitated  to  describe  him  as  a  man  without  a  conscience. 
But  he  contented  himself  with  picturing  vice  as  vile,  and 
the  viler  he  made  it  appear,  the  more  was  he  abused, 
the  more  was  he  accused  of  wallowing  in  it,  of  giving 
full  rein  to  filthy  libidinous  propensities  for  the  express 
purpose  of  corrupting  all  who  read  him !  That  charge  was 
repeated  widely  by  the  English  press,  as  is  shown  by  the 
hundreds  of  cuttings  from  London  and  provincial  news- 
papers in  the  writer's  possession.  And  Vizetelly  &  Co. 
were  accused  of  having  deliberately  chosen  "the  very 
worst"  of  Zola's  books  for  translation. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  in  1888  they  were  selling  all  the 
novels  that  Zola  had  then  written,  with  the  exception  of 
"Les  Mystferes  de  Marseille,"  "La  Confession  de  Claude,** 
and  "Le  R§ve,"  which  kst  only  appeared  in  Paris  in  the 
latter  part  of  that  year.  The  publication  of  those  books 
had  been  going  on  for  four  years,  unchallenged.  Each 
new  volume  as  it  appeared  was  priced  at  six:  shillings, 
and  subsequently  lowered  to  three  shillings  and  sixpence. 
A  few  volumes,  in  picture  boards,  were  sold  at  two  shillings 
and  sixpence.  But  the  critics  rushed  upon  "The  Soil," 
the  English  version  of  "La  Terre,"  and  one  man,  who 


262    tlCiLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

can  never  have  compared  it  with  the  original,  had  the 
Impudence  to  assert  that  it  was  "  an  almost  word  for  word 
translation  of  Zok's  bestial  book/*  Readers  who  had  never 
seen  Vinetelly  &  Ca's  catalogue  were  also  allowed  to  infer 
that  the  firm  traded  exclusively  in  "pornographic  litera- 
ture/* Now,  in  that  catalogue,  two  hundred  and  forty 
works  were  enumerated,  and  the  Zola  volumes  were  eighteen 
in  number.  But  it  may  be  said  that  other  books  were 
denounced  also,  the  translations  of  Flaubert's  "Madame 
Bovary"  and  *  Salammbo  * ;  Goncourt's  "Germinie  Lacer- 
teui: w  and  *<  Renfe  Mauperin  " ;  Gautier's  «  Mile,  de  Maupin  " ; 
Murger's  "  Vie  de  Bohtoe  ";  Maupassant's  "  Bel-Ami"  and 
"TJne  Vie";  Daudet's  "Sapho";  Paul  Bourget's  "Grime 
d'Amour"  and  Ms  "Cruelle  Eiigme,"  which  last  the  firm 
had  issued  in  consequence  of  a  laudatory  notice  in  the  staid 
old  **  Athenieum,"  surely  the  last  journal  in  the  world 
to  recommend  anything  suggestive  of  pornography.  But 
counting  even  all  the  works  belonging  more  or  less  to 
the  French  realistic  schools  which  Vketelly  &  Co.  issued, 
one  reached  only  a  total  of  about  thirty,  leaving  some  two 
hundred  and  ten  books  of  other  classes.  Thirteen  of  those 
were  certainly  volumes  of  "  The  Mermaid  Series  of  the  old 
Dramatists"  which  some  anonymous  scribes  likewise  regarded 
as €t  pornographic  "  in  that  hour  when  cant  and  hypocrisy 
poured  venom  on  virtually  every  form  of  literature  that  had 
not  received  the  imprimatur  of  Pecksniff  &  Company. 

The  public  having  been  prepared  for  developments,  the 
question  of  "  pernicious  literature  "  was  brought  before  the 
House  of  Commons  by  one  of  its  members,  Mr.  Samuel 
Smith,  who  sat  for  Flintshire.  He  had  married  the  daughter 
of  a  clergyman,  and  had  a  reputation  for  extreme  piety.  He 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    263 

was  described  at  the  time  as  "  an  enthusiast  without  enthu- 
siasm, with  a  tall,  expansive  frame,  a  huge  beard,  a  placid- 
life-like  expression,  and  a  mild  feminine  voice,1' 1  which,  said 
another  journal,  was  "peculiarly  suited  to  the  expression  of 
lamentation."2  There  was  some  fear,  it  seems,  that  there 
might  be  a  poor  attendance  at  the  debate  on  the  motion  he 
meant  to  submit,  indeed  a  "  count  out "  was  feared,  tut 
arrangements  were  made  to  keep  a  house  for  the  occasion, 
when  the  aspect  of  the  benches  was  apparently  such  as  the 
following  diagram  indicates : 


#  *  *  * 


#  * 

Mr.  Smith 


*  *    *  # 

OPPOSITION  BENCHES* 

MINISTEBIAL  BENCHES. 
****  *         **  *  * 


#    *    *    * 


[From  the  "Pall  Mail  Gazette,"  May  10,  1888.] 

Thus,  of  an  assembly  numbering  between  six  and  seven 
hundred  members,  just  forty  were  found  sufficiently  inter- 

i  «  Notts  Daily  Express/'  May  10,  1888. 
«  "Pall  Mall  Gazette,"  May  9,  1888. 


264    CUDDLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

ested  in  the  morals  of  their  constituents  to  discuss  the  motion 
submitted  by  Mr.  Smith,  which  was:  "That  this  House 
deplores  the  rapid  spread  of  demoralising  literature  in  this 
country,  and  is  of  opinion  that  the  law  against  obscene  pub- 
lications and  indecent  pictures  and  prints  should  be  vigor- 
ously enforced  and,  if  necessary,  strengthened."  In  the 
speech  with  which  the  member  for  Flintshire  opened  the 
debate  he  did  not  hesitate  to  describe  Henry  Vizetelly  as 
**the  chief  culprit  in  the  spread  of  pernicious  literature "; 
and,  according  to  a  "  Pall  Mall  Gazette n  report,  which  he 
never  contradicted,  he  said  of  the  works  of  Zola  that  *  nothing 
more  diabolical  had  ever  been  written  by  the  pen  of  man ; 
they  were  only  fit  for  swine,  and  those  who  read  them  must 
turn,  their  minds  into  cesspools,**1  In  this  fashion  does 
the  Puritan  prate  when  he  goes  on  the  warpath.  For  the 
lest,  Mr,  Smith  talked  de  omni  re  sdbili,  *  flinging  Ms  ac- 
cusations broadcast  All  kinds  of  literature,  including  daily 
newspapers,  came  under  his  ban.  He  wanted  everything — 
books,  magazines,  and  newspapers, — to  be  subject  to  some 
sort  of  restraint"  He  spoke  in  the  "spirit  which  as- 
sumes that  what  is  evilly  suggestive  to  itself  must  be 
evilly  suggestive  to  others."  But  as  was  added  by  the 
journal  from  which  these  remarks  are  quoted:2  "What 
sort  of  literature  should  we  have  if  it  were  all  brought 
down  to  such  a  level  as  would  satisfy  the  ascetic  tastes 
of  the  Smiths  ?  Where  would  the  Bible  be  ?  What  would 
become  of  Shakespeare?" 

1  That  passage  is  not  given  in  a  reprint  of  the  speech  issued  by  the  "  Na- 
tional VigOants,"  but  it  is  inconceivable  that  a  reporter  should  have  invented 
it.    Besides,  virtually  the  same  words  as  those  given  above  appeared  in  an 
account  of  the  speech  in  "The  Birmingham  Daily  Mail/'  May  9,  1888. 

2  tlTheScotsman,nMaylO,  1888. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    265 

After  Mr.  Smith's  motion  had  been  seconded  by  Mr.  T.  W. 
Russell,  and  endorsed  by  Sir  Robert  Fowler  and  Mr.  De 
Lisle,  another  member,  Mr.  (afterwards  Sir  F,  S.)  Powell, 
leaving  French  novels  on  one  side,  called  attention  to  certain 
circulars  "headed  with  Scriptural  texts  and  looking  like 
religious  tracts"  which  were  circulated  in  English  homes, 
apropos  of  the  spread  of  contagious  disease  in  India, 
and  which,  in  his  opinion,  were  calculated  to  do  much, 
harm. 

Then  came  the  Government  spokesman,  Mr.  Henry  Mat- 
thews, one  of  the  most  unpopular  Home  Secretaries  that 
Great  Britain  has  known  since  the  time  of  the  Walpole 
under  whose  effete  administration  the  public  tore  down  the 
railings  of  Hyde  Park.  Mr.  Matthews,  a  lawyei  and  a 
Roman  Catholic,  was  subsequently  given  a  peerage ;  but  in 
1888  he  sat  in  the  House  of  Commons  for  the  city  of  Bir- 
mingham. He  agreed  very  largely  with  what  Mr.  Smith  had 
said,  and  he  asserted  that  "in  comparing  French  modern 
literature  with  classical  literature  it  had  to  be  borne  in  mind 
that,  while  the  latter  was  written  with  no  evil  purpose  (!),  the 
former  was  written  with  the  object  of  directing  attention  to 
the  foulest  passions  of  which  human  nature  was  capable,  and 
to  depict  them  in  the  most  attractive  forms  *  —  an  allega- 
tion which,  applied  to  Zola's  works,  can  only  be  described  as 
astounding.  But  the  Home  Secretary  also  denounced  the 
"  penny  dreadfuls,"  the  quack  advertisements,  and  the  full 
reports  of  divorce  cases  which  appeared  in  the  daily  press. 
And  on  the  question  of  instituting  prosecutions  he  said : 

«  The  reason  why  the  law  was  not  more  frequently  put  in  force 
was  the  difficulty  that  was  experienced  in  getting  juries  to  draw  a 
hard  and  fast  line,  and  to  convict  in  all  cases  that  crossed  that 


266    IMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEB 

line.  He  had  given  careful  attention  to  this  question,  and  he 
should  deprecate  handing  over  to  the  Public  Prosecutor,  or  any- 
body dae>  th©  task  of  deciding  what  was  the  straight  and  narrow 
Mn©  which  divided  what  was  punishable,  criminal,  and  obscene 
within  the  meaning  of  the  law,  and  what  was  merely  indelicate 
and  coaim  The  public  judgment  was  a  safer  guide  than  that  of 
way  official,  and  if  the  general  moral  sense  of  the  community  did 
not  compel  individuals  to  prosecute,  BO  good  would  be  done  by 
trying  to  create  an  artificial  moral  sense  by  the  action  of  the 
Public  Prosecutor.  .  .  .  Serious  evils  arose  from  the  failure  of 
attempts  to  obtain  convictions.  So  far,  however,  as  he  could  in- 
fluence the  Public  Prosecutor,  who  was,  to  some  extent,  indepen- 
dent of  any  Public  Office  and  acted  on  his  own  discretion,  he  would 
certainly  urge  prosecutions  in  any  cases  in  which  it  did  not  appear 
that  more  harm  than  good  would  result.  ...  He  was  sure,  how- 
ever, that  the  hon,  Member  and  all  those  who  had  honest  con- 
victions would  not  shrink  from  the  alight  personal  inconvenience 
of  putting  the  law  in  motion  in  any  case  of  real  public  mischief." 

The  debate  was  continued  by  three  or  four  members,  one 
of  whom,  Mr.  H.  J.  Wilson  (Holmfirth)  apologetically  and 
naively  declared  with  respect  to  the  pious  circulars  on  the 
working  of  the  Contagious  Diseases  Act,  of  which  Mr. 
Powell  had  complained,  that  their  distribution  was  the  only 
method  of  making  the  truth  known,  and  that  the  only  way 
to  stop  them  would  be  to  put  an  end  to  the  horrible  system 
that  rendered  their  dissemination  necessary.  To  this  Zola, 
if  he  had  been  present,  might  have  retorted  that  the  circula- 
tion of  the  plain  statements  of  fact  contained  in  his  books 
was  likewise,  in  his  estimation,  the  only  way  to  make  known 
the  degradation  of  society  at  large,  in  order  that  remedies 
might  be  applied. 

Mr.  Smith's  motion  was  carried  unanimously,  however, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    267 

by  the  forty  gentlemen  present,  matters  being  left  In  this 
position:  The  Government  hesitated  to  institute  pros- 
ecutions, and  thought  that  private  individuals  should 
do  so* 

Meanwhile  the  campaign  went  on.  Mr.  Smith  wrote  a 
letter  to  the  newspapers ;  another  came  from  Lord  Mount- 
Temple  ;  and  the  press,  with  few  exceptions,  endorsed  every- 
thing that  was  said  by  the  Commoner  and  the  nobleman. 
The  vigilant  "  Guardian  "  of  the  Church  of  England  availed 
itself  of  the  occasion  to  thunder  against  Sir  Richard  Burton 
and  his  "Arabian  Nights";  "The  Tablet  *  of  the  Roman 
Catholics  jesuitically  signified  its  approval  of  the  agitation, 
because  Zola's  whole  tendency  was  "  suspected "  (!)  to  be 
immoral ;  the  conscientious  Nonconformist  journals,  as  was 
to  be  expected,  said  ditto  to  everything  that  Smith  said. 
Some  righteous  contributor  to  "  The  Globe  "  wrote  of  Zola's 
books  that  they  were  characterised  by  "  dangerous  lubricity," 
that  they  "  sapped  the  foundations  of  manhood  and  woman- 
hood, not  only  destroyed  innocence,  but  corroded  the  moral 
nature."  "The  Birmingham  Daily  Mail"  declared  that 
"Zola  simply  wallowed  in  Immorality."  "The  Whitehall 
Review "  openly  clamoured  for  the  prosecution  of  his  pub- 
lisher. "The  Weekly  Dispatch"  impudently  inquired,  "If 
Mr.  Vizetelly  gives  us  Zola,  why  does  he  pick  <La  Terre1? 
And  if  Daudet,  why  pick '  Sapho '  ? "  —  thus  ignoring  the  fact 
that  the  firm  published  virtually  all  of  the  former's  stories, 
and  several  of  the  latter's,  and  conveying,  for  its  own  pur- 
poses, a  false  impression  to  its  readers.  Indeed,  misrepre- 
sentation of  the  facts  was  to  be  found  in  many  directions. 
A  few  newspapers  wrapped  themselves  in  their  dignity  and 
said  nothing ;  and  a  few  remained  fairly  cool  and  sensible : 


208    &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

"The  Standard;1  ^The  Scottish  Leader,"  "The  Scotsman," 
"The  Radical  Leader/*  "The  Bradford  Observer"  "The 
Country  Gentleman,"  "  Piccadilly,"  "  The  Newcastle  Chron- 
icle/' and  *  The  Western  Daily  Press."  There  may  have  been 
a  few  others,  for  the  writer  does  not  claim  that  his  collec- 
tion of  press  cuttings  is  absolutely  complete ;  but  after  ex- 
amining some  hundreds  of  extracts  he  finds  little  that  is  not 
mendacious  or  steeped  in  religious  bigotry,  puritanical  pru- 
dery, or  gross  ignorance.  And  at  all  events  it  is  certain  that 
an  overwhelming  majority  of  British  editors  and  "leader- 
writers  "  endorsed  the  views  of  the  Pharisees. 

The  campaign  was  then  carried  to  a  decisive  stage.  A 
firm  of  solicitors,  (toilette  &  Collette,  applied  at  Bow  Street 
police-court  for  a  summons  against  Henry  Vizetelly  for 
having  published  three  obscene  books,  to  wit, "  Nana,*  "  The 
Soil*  (*I*  Terref>)>  and  « Piping-Hot"  (" Pot-BouiUe "),  by 
Emila  Zola*  The  summons  was  granted,  and  on  August  10, 
1888,  Vwetelly  appeared  to  answer  it  The  prosecution 
had  been  entrusted  to  Mr.  Asquith,  —  now  best  known 
as  a  politician, — and  he,  in  opening  his  case,  was  about 
to  deal  with  "Nana,"  when  the  magistrate,  Mr.  (afterwards 
Sir)  John  Bridge,  who  evidently  had  already  made  up  his 
mind  respecting  the  case,  suggested  that  he  should  take  the 
worst  of  the  three  books,  namely  "  The  Soil,"  —  for  which,  by 
the  way,  Zola  had  received  the  decoration  of  the  Legion  of 
Honour  three  weeks  previously  !  Counsel  assented,  referred 
the  magistrate  to  various  pages,  and  then  solemnly  declared 
that  this  book  and  the  two  others  were  "  the  three  most  im- 
moral books  ever  published ! "  But  having  thus  revealed 
how  very  limited  was  his  knowledge  of  literature,  he  added, 
fairly  enough,  that  it  was  claimed  for  "The  Soil"  that  it 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOKMER    269 

had  been  published  with  a  high  moral  object  —  namely,  to 
show  the  degradation  of  the  French  peasant  and  the  neces- 
sity of  alteration  in  the  laws  by  which  he  was  governed. 

Vizetelly's  solicitor,  Mr,  Lickfold  (of  Messrs.  Lewis  & 
Lewis),  argued  on  his  client's  behalf  that  he  had  a  perfect 
right  to  publish  these  translations,  the  French  originals  of 
which  were  circulated  in  Great  Britain  without  let  or 
hindrance;  and  he  contrasted  them  with  English  works 
which  were  sold  widely  and  freely,  such  as  Byron's  "Don 
Juan,"  and  Shakespeare's  *  Merry  Wives  of  Windsor."  Far 
from  the  incriminated  books  being  the  three  most  immoral 
ever  written,  said  Mr.  Lickfold,  there  were  many  within  the 
cognisance  of  all  men  of  any  education  which  were  very 
much  worse.  But  the  magistrate  curtly  intimated  that  it 
was  a  case  for  a  jury  to  decide,  and  he  forthwith  committed 
the  defendant  for  trial  at  the  Central  Criminal  Court,  ad- 
mitting him,  meanwhile,  to  bail  in  his  own  recognisances. 

Vizetelly's  committal  led  to  great  rejoicing  among  the 
Pharisees;  and  to  improve  the  occasion  the  "National 
Vigilants "  summoned  a  bookseller  named  Thomson  at 
Guildhall  (September  7)  for  selling  an  English  version 
of  Boccaccio's  "Decameron."  Mr.  Forrest  Fulton  —  subse- 
quently knighted  and  appointed  Common  Sergeant  of  the 
City  of  London  —  prosecuted  and  asked  for  a  committal,  but 
Mr.  Horace  Avory,  defendant's  counsel,  replied  that  the 
"  Decameron  "  had  been  in  circulation  for  over  four  hundred 
years,  that  there  were  three  copies  of  the  work  in  the  Eng- 
lish language  in  the  Guildhall  Library  and  soijae  two 
hundred  in  the  British  Museum;  and  he  contended  that 
this  classical  work  was  not  indecent  in  the  eyes  of  the  law. 
Mr.  Alderman  Phillips,  who  heard  the  case,  quietly  re- 


270    &BOLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

marked  that  he  himself  had  read  the  book  both  in  Italian 
and  in  English,  and  he  refnsed  to  send  the  defendant  for 
trial,  as  he  did  not  believe  that  any  jury  would  return  a 
conviction. 

This  was  a  rebuff  for  the  fanatics,  who  now  concentrated 
their  energy  on  the  prosecution  of  Vizetelly.  The  latter 
had  taken  his  committal  in  a  defiant  spirit,  promptly  issu- 
ing the  following  notice  to  his  customers:  "The  trade  is 
informed  that  there  are  no  legal  restrictions  on  the  sale 
of  'Nana,'  'Piping  Hot,'  and  'The  Soil/  and  that  none 
can  be  imposed  until  a  jury  has  pronounced  adversely 
against  these  books  which  the  publishers  still  continue 
to  supply."  This  announcement,  which  was  perhaps  ill 
advised  —  though  in  counsel's  opinion  well  within  one's 
legal  rights — momentarily  enraged  the  "  Vigilants,"  but 
they  were  about  to  receive  important  help.  The  Govern- 
ment, encouraged  by  the  press,  took  up  the  prosecution,  thus 
relieviBg  the  agitators  of  the  cost  of  their  suit. 

Affairs  now  began  to  assume  a  more  serious  aspect,  the 
question  was  no  longer  one  of  fighting  a  band  of  fanatics, 
but  of  contending  against  the  law-officers  of  the  Crown 
who  would  bring  all  the  weight  of  their  authority  to 
bear  upon  the  jury.  In  these  circumstances  Vizetelly 
decided  to  print  a  series  of  extracts  from  the  works  of 
English  classic  authors,1  by  way  of  showing  that  if  Zola's 
novels  were  suppressed  one  ought  also  to  suppress  some 
of  the  greatest  works  in  English  literature.  These  extracts, 
which  were  preceded  by  quotations  from  Macaulay  on  the 
suggested  suppression  of  the  works  of  Congreve,  "Wycherley, 

1  "Extracts  principally  from  English  Classics,"  etc,,  4to.  London,  1888. 
(Printed  for  private  circulation.) 


ZOLA,  NOYBLIST  AND  EEFORMER    271 

etc.,  and  b j  Zola's  own  explanation  of  the  scope  and  purpose 
of  Ms  Eougon-Macquart  series,  covered  a  very  wide  field. 
Among  the  many  authors  laid  under  contribution  were 
Shakespeare,  Beaumont  and  Fletcher,  Massinger,  John 
Ford,  Thomas  Carew,  Sir  George  Etherege,  Dryden,  Con- 
greve,  Otway,  Prior,  Defoe,  Swift,  Sterne,  Fielding,  Smollett, 
Byron,  etc.,  the  series  running  from  the  time  of  Elizabeth 
to  the  early  part  of  the  nineteenth  century.  At  the  same 
time  Vizetelly  drafted  an  open  letter  to  Sir  A,  K.  Stephen- 
son,  the  Solicitor  to  the  Treasury,  who  now  conducted  the 
prosecution,  and  copies  of  the  letter  and  of  the  extracts 
were  forwarded  to  all  the  members  of  the  Government 
and  the  leading  London  newspapers.  The  letter  ran  as 
follows :  — 

Sm,  —  As  the  Treasury,  after  a  lapse  of  four  years  since  the 
first  appearance  of  the  translations  of  M.  Zola's  novels,  has  taken 
upon  itself  the  prosecution  instituted  for  the  suppression  of  these 
books,  I  beg  leave  to  submit  to  your  notice  some  hundreds  of 
Extracts,  chiefly  from  English  classics,  and  to  ask  you  if  in  the 
event  of  M.  Zola's  novels  being  pronounced  "obscene  libels,** 
publishers  will  be  allowed  to  continue  issuing  In  their  present 
form  the  plays  of  Shakespeare,  Beaumont  and  Fletcher,  Massinger, 
and  other  old  dramatists,  and  the  works  of  Defoe,  Dryden,  Swift, 
Prior,  Sterne,  Fielding,  Smollett,  and  a  score  of  other  writers  — 
all  containing  passages  far  more  objectionable  than  any  that  can 
be  picked  out  from  the  Zola  translations  published  by  me. 

I  admit  that  the  majority  of  the  works  above  referred  to  were 
written  many  years  ago,  still  they  are  largely  reprinted  at  the 
present  day  —  at  times  in  Editions  de  litze  at  a  guinea  per  volume, 
and  at  others  in  People's  Editions,  priced  as  low  as  sixpence,  — 
so  that  while  at  the  period  they  were  written  their  circulation 
was  comparatively  small,  of  late  years  it  has  increased  almost  a 
hundred-fold. 


272    tMHJB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

So  long  *a  the  present  prosecution  was  in  the  hands  of  the 
fio»tict  who  initiated  "The  Maiden  Tribute  "  of  "The  Pall  Mall 
Gaiette,1*  and  whose  mouthpieces  in  both  Houses  of  Parliament 
haw  gdled  th®  Legislature  with  cock  and  bull  sensational  stories 
of  there  being  ten  houses  in  a  single  London  street  where  young 
girls  sr©  accommodated  with  private  rooms  and  supplied  with 
indaeent  books  for  perusal,  ...  so  long  m  the  prosecution  re- 
mained in  those  hands,  I  waa  content  to  leave  the  decision  to  the 
sound  common-sense  of  an  English  jury.  Now,  however,  that  the 
Government  has  thought  proper  to  throw  its  weight  into  the  scale, 
with  the  view  of  suppressing  a  class  of  books  which  the  law 
has  never  previously  interfered  with  —  otherwise  the  works  I 
have  quoted  from  could  only  be  issued  in  secret  and  circulated  by 
stealth  —  circumstances  are  changed,  and  I  ask  for  my  own  and 
other  publishers1  guidance  whether,  if  Zola's  novels  are  to  be  inter- 
dicted, €f  Tom  Jones  "  and  "  Roderick  Random,n  "  Moll  Flanders  * 
and  "The  Country  Wife,*  "The  Maid's  Tragedy "  and  "The 
Bekpsi/*  in  all  of  which  the  grossest  passages  are  to  be  met 
wiik  wll  0U11  be  allowed  to  emulate  without  risk  of  legal  pro- 
ceedings. 

IE  the  Extracts  now  submitted  to  your  notice,  and  which  you 
must  be  well  aware  could  be  multiplied  almost  a  hundred-fold,  I 
have  made  no  selections  from  cheap  translations  of  the  classics 
with  their  manifold  obscenities  *  .  *  nor  from  popular  versions  of 
foreign  authors,  whose  indecency  surpasses  anything  contained  in 
the  English  versions  of  "  Nana"  and  "The  Soil,"  and  who,  unlike 
M.  Zola,  exhibit  no  moral  tendency  whatever  in  their  writings. 
.  .  .  The  Temperance  cause  never  before  found  so  potential  an 
advocate  as  M.  Zola  proved  himself  to  be  in  "  L' Assommoir/1 
A  great  writer  who  has  exercised  the  wide  influence  on  contempo- 
rary literature  that  M.  Zola  has  done,  whose  works  have  been 
rendered  into  all  the  principal  European  languages,  and  who  com- 
mands a  larger  audience  than  any  previous  author  has  ever  before 
secured,  is  not  to  be  extinguished  by  having  recourse  to  the  old 
form  of  legal  condemnation,  and  especially  at  the  bidding  of  a 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFGBJCER    273 

fanatical  party,  the  disastrous  elects  of  whose  agitation  on  the 
health  of  our  soldiers  is  recognised  and  lamented  by  all  military! 
and  by  most  sensible,  men. 

Is  life  as  it  really  exists — with  the  Yice  and  degradation  current 
among  the  lower  classes,  and  the  greed,  the  selfishness,  and  the  sen* 
suality  prevalent  in  the  classes  above — to  be  in  future  ignored  by 
the  novelist  who,  in  the  case  of  M.  Zola,  really  holds  the  historian's 
pen!  Is  adual  life  to  be  no  longer  described  in  fiction,  simply 
because  the  withdrawal  of  the  veil  that  shrouds  it  displays  a  state 
of  things  unadapted  to  the  contemplation  —  not  of  grown-up  men 
and  women,  but  of  "  the  young  person  of  fifteen/*  who  has  the 
works  of  all  Mr.  Mudie's  novelists  to  feast  upon  f  This  certainly 
was  not  the  law  in  the  days  of  Defoe,  Swift,  and  Fielding,  and  it 
needed  a  canting  age,  that  can  gloat  over  the  filthiest  Divorce 
cases,  while  pretending  to  be  greatly  shocked  at  M.  Zola's  blunt- 
ness  j  but  above  all,  it  required  a  weak-kneed  Government,  with 
one  who  was  once  a  literary  man  himself  at  its  head,  [Lord 
Salisbury]  to  strain  the  law  in  a  way  that  an  educated  alder- 
man refused  to  do  the  other  day  in  reference  to  Boccaccio's 
"  Decameron." 

Time,  we  are  told,  brings  round  its  revenges,  and  the  books 
burnt  by  the  common  hangman  in  one  age  come  to  b©  honoured 
in  the  next.  England  may  render  itself  ridiculous  in  the  eyes  of 
Europe  by  visiting  the  works  of  M.  Zola  with  the  same  kind 
of  condemnation  which  the  civilised  world  has  accorded  to  the 
writings  of  the  degraded  Marquis  de  Sade;  still  it  requires  no 
particular  foresight  to  predict  that  a  couple  of  generations  hence, 
when  the  tribe  of  prejudiced  scribes  —  who,  ignorant  for  the  most 
part  of  their  own  country's  literature,  now  join  in  the  hue  and  cry 
against  M.  Zola — are  relegated  to  their  proper  obscurity,  the 
works  of  the  author  of  the  Rougon-Macquart  Family  will  take 
rank  as  classics  among  the  productions  of  the  great  writers  of  the 
past. 

I  am,  Sir,  your  obedient  servant, 

HENRY  YIZETELLY. 
18 


274    tlCELE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

The  letter  was  dated  September  18, 1888,  on  which  very 
day  the  sessions  of  the  Central  Criminal  Court  began,  but 
the  Crown  applied  for  a  postponement  of  the  trial,  and  as 
Yketelly's  counsel,  who  had  been  instructed  to  oppose  any 
postponement,  failed  to  attend,  and  Vizetelly  himself  was 
refused  admittance  by  an  officious  policeman,  the  case  was  at 
once  put  off  until  October.  This  was  very  prejudicial 
to  Vizetelly's  business,  particularly  as  the  attacks  of  certain 
prints  did  not  cease.  Looking  back,  it  greatly  astonishes 
the  writer  that  no  application  was  ever  made  to  commit  the 
publishers  of  several  London  and  provincial  newspapers  for 
circulating  comments  on  a  case  which  was  sub  judice, 
comments  well  calculated  to  prevent  the  defendant  from 
obtaining  a  fair  trial  But  that  idea  does  not  seem  to  have 
occurred  either  to  Vizetelly  or  to  anybody  about  him.  He 
at  fizst  had  felt  fairly  confident  respecting  the  issue  of  the 
cue,  and,  as  an  old  journalist*  had  entertained  nothing 
but  contempt  for  the  terriers  of  the  profession  who  barked 
at  his  heels.  But  his  confidence  had  been  shaken  by  the 
intervention  of  the  Government  and  was  finally  undermined 
by  well-meaning  friends  who,  owing  to  the  postponement  of 
the  proceedings,  had  many  an  opporttinity  to  tender  counsel. 
Their  motives  were  most  honourable  and  praiseworthy,  no 
doubt  But  the  effects  of  their  solicitude  were  disastrous. 
"  In  the  multitude  of  counsellors  there  is  wisdom,"  it  has 
been  said,  but  in  Vizetelly1  s  case  there  came  chaos.  While 
some  urged  him  to  fight,  others  begged  that  he  would  do  no 
such  thing.  There  was  an  incessant  chassS-croise  of  advice ; 
and  Vizetelly,  now  resolving  on  one  course,  and  now  on 
another,  was  at  last  at  a  loss  what  to  do.  Had  he  been 
a  younger  man  the  case  would  have  been  very  different,  for 


tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    275 

in  his  prime  he  had  evinced  much  energy  of  disposition, 
and  in  difficult  moments  had  relied  on  his  own  sound  com- 
mon-sense. But  he  was  now  sixty-eight  years  old,  and 
though  he  was  still  of  most  industrious  habits,  the  strenu- 
ous life  he  had  led  had  left  its  mark  upon  him.  Moreover, 
a  complaint  from  which  he  suffered  had  taken  a  very 
serious  turn,  and  frequent  physical  suffering  was  not  con- 
ducive to  perspicuity  and  energy  of  mind.  Again,  there 
was  the  position  of  his  business  to  be  considered.  In  conse- 
quence of  the  prosecution  and  the  misrepresentations  of  the 
newspapers,  the  trade  became  afraid  to  handle  any  books  he 
published,  and  thus  his  sales  rapidly  decreased.  Besides, 
he  found  it  difficult  to  obtain  efficient  counsel  for  his  trial. 
The  Parnell  Commission  was  then  sitting,  and  most  of  the 
great  men  of  the  bar  were  retained  in  it.  Mr.  (now  Sir 
Robert)  Finlay,  Q.  C.,  who  was  applied  to,  could  not  take 
the  brief,  having  in  hand  already  a  large  number,  which 
the  barristers  engaged  before  the  commission  had  been 
obliged  to  decline.  Other  men  were  similarly  circumstanced, 
and  there  was  one  who  honestly  admitted  that  he  did  not 
like  the  case,  and  would  therefore  prove  a  very  poor  advo- 
cate. Eventually  Mr.  Francis  B.  Williams,  Q.  C.,  [Recorder 
of  Cardiff,  was  retained,  with  Mr.  A.  R  Cluer,  now  a  London 
police  magistrate,  as  his  junior. 

Beset  as  he  was  by  various  friends,  who  held  that  in  the 
state  of  public  opinion  he  was  not  likely  to  secure  an 
acquittal,  Vizetelly  at  last  allowed  some  inquiries  to  be 
made  as  to  what  would  happen  if  he  pleaded  guilty  and 
withdrew  the  three  incriminated  Zola  translations,  such  as 
they  were  then,  from  circulation.  A  letter  bearing  on  this 
question,  says :  "  If  the  rest  of  Zola's  works  that  are  open 


276    tifttE  ZOLA,  NOTELIST  AND  REFORMER 

to  objection  are  withdrawn,  the  Solicitor-general  will  be 
content  that  the  defendant  be  not  sentenced  to  imprison- 
ment* He  thinks  that  tie  taxed  costs  of  the  prosecution 
should  be  paid,  and  will  leave  the  amount  of  fine  (if  any) 
to  the  judge,  not  pressing  for  a  heavy  one  if  the  defendant 
is  a  man  of  small  means.1*  This  communication  gave  a  new 
aspect  to  the  case.  The  question  was  no  longer  one  of  three 
of  Zola's  works ;  all  of  them  might  have  to  be  withdrawn. 
Private  testimony  respecting  the  narrow  puritanism  animat- 
ing the  authorities  at  that  moment  indicated  that  they 
would  show  no  fairness  in  considering  the  matter  of  other 
books  by  Zola,  at  least  in  the  form  of  translations ;  for  it  is 
a  fact  that  while  Vizetelly's  expurgated  English  versions 
were  being  prosecuted,  the  French  volumes  still  entered  the 
country  and  were  freely  sold  there  and  circulated  by  libra- 
ries !  Thw  aE  who  knew  French  were  privileged  to  read 
Zola  wrlffii&m,  whereas  theme  who  did  not  know  that  lan- 
guage were  not  allowed  to  peruse  expurgated  renderings  of 
Ms  books.  Under  the  circumstances  set  forth  above,  Vize- 
telly  finally  resolved  to  contest  the  case ;  but,  unfortunately, 
the  inquiries  instituted  on  his  behalf  had  made  his  hesita- 
tion known  to  the  prosecution  and  inclined  it  therefore  to 
vigorous  courses. 

The  trial  took  place  on  October  31, 1888,  at  the  Old  Bai- 
ley, before  the  Recorder,  Sir  Thomas  Chambers,  whose  literary 
bent  may  be  indicated  in  a  few  words :  his  favourite  poet  was 
Hannah  More.  The  jury  appeared  to  be  of  the  usual  petty- 
trading  class.  The  prosecution  was  conducted  by  the 
Solicitor-general,  then  Sir  Edward  Clarke,  who  had  already 
made  a  considerable  reputation  by  certain  cross-examinations, 
and  who  at  a  subsequent  period  defended  the  unhappy 


£ftOLB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBHEB   277 

Oscar  Wilde,  when  the  latter  was  convicted  of  unnatural 
offences*  Sir  Edward  opened  the  proceedings  at  no  great 
length.  He  first  pointed  out  that,  in  the  case  of  "The 
Queen  t?.  Hicklm/*  Lord  Chief  Justice  Cockburn  had  ruled 
that  the  object  for  which  a  publication  might  be  issued  had 
nothing  to  do  with  the  question  of  its  obscenity,  the  test  of 
which  was  whether  the  matter  so  published  had  a  tendency 
to  deprave  and  corrupt  those  into  whose  hands  the  publica- 
tion might  fall  He  also  mentioned  that  it  had  been  ruled 
in  the  Hicklin  case  that  no  excuse  was  supplied  by  the 
circumstance  that  other  literature  —  especially  that  of  two 
or  three  centuries  previously  —  might  contain  passages 
conflicting  with  one's  judgment  as  to  what  was  fit  for  cir- 
culation. Then  he  passed  to  "  The  Soil,**  asserting  that  it 
was  full  of  bestial  obscenity,  without  a  spark  of  literary 
genius  or  the  expression  of  an  elevated  thought.  That,  of 
course,  was  his  opinion  of  the  book ;  and  several  years  later 
he  amused  a  great  many  people  by  giving  his  opinions  on 
literature  at  large,  thereby  arousing  the  ire  of  a  distinguished 
writer,  Mr.  Edmund  Gosse,  who  unfortunately  made  the 
mistake  of  telling  Sir  Edward  Clarke  that  he  was  a  lawyer 
and  not  a  litUrateur  —  even  as  Mr.  Chamberlain  in  his  fis- 
cal campaign  subsequently  reproached  Mr.  Asquith  for  dis- 
cussing business  when  he  was  not  a  business  man.  But 
whatever  might  be  Sir  Edward  Clarke's  calling,  he  had  a 
right  to  hold  opinions  on  literature  and  to  express  them. 
Even  a  tinker  may  have  literary  views  and  may  make  them 
known,  though  it  does  not  follow  that  they  will  be  adopted 
by  the  community  generally. 

Having  concluded  his  address,  the  Solicitor-general  pro- 
ceeded to  read  some  passages  from  "  The  Soil,"  and  he  had 


278   ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

scarcely  begun  when  a  faint  stir  among  the  public  brought  a 
loud  cry  of  "  Silence ! "  from  the  ushers.  Ernest  Vizetelly, 
who  was  seated  at  the  solicitors'  table,  then  turned  and 
perceived  several  French  newspaper  correspondents  and 
others  striving  to  preserve  their  gravity,  which  had  been 
disturbed  by  the  curious  manner  in  which  Sir  Edward 
Clarke  pronounced  the  French  names  confronting  him  in 
the  pages  of  "  The  Soil"  For  a  time  one  might  have  im- 
agined he  was  reading  a  novel  of  the  kail-yard,  for  he 
persistently  pronounced  *f  Jean"  as  if  it  were  a  Scottish 
name.  For  instance: 

"  There  was  a  lass,  and  she  was  fair, 
At  kirk  and  market  to  be  seen; 
"When  a'  the  Imirest  maids  were  met, 
The  Mrest  maid  was  boxmie  Jean."1 

The  effect  was  the  more  curious  as  in  Zola's  book  Jean,  of 
course,  is  a  man,  whereas  from  Sir  Edward  Clarke's  pronun- 
ciation it  might  have  been  inferred  that  he  was  a  woman ! 
However,  the  slaughter  of  French  names  did  not  continue 
long.  The  jurymen  expressed  their  views  clearly  enough  by 
interrupting  a  passage  describing  how  the  girl  Frangoise 
Mouche  brings  the  cow,  La  Coliche,  to  the  bull  at  the  farm 
of  La  Borderie.  The  mere  idea  that  such  a  thing  could 
happen  evidently  amazed  and  disgusted  them;  but  their 
surprise  would  probably  have  been  less  great  if,  instead  of 
being  Londoners,  they  had  been  yokels  from  the  country, 
for,  as  various  correspondents  informed  the  writer  subsequent 
to  the  trial,  instances  of  the  same  kind  could  have  been 
easily  adduced  from  different  parts  of  the  United  Kingdom, 
notably  Wales. 

*  "The  Poetical  Works  of  Robert  Burns,"  Aldine  Edition,  YoL  II,  p.  225 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    279 

One  of  the  Pecksniffian  arguments  at  that  time  was  that 
Zola  wrote  for  his  own  countrymen,  and  that  even  if  he  were 
justified  in  addressing  them  as  he  did,  there  was  no  excuse 
for  placing  translations  of  his  works  in  the  hands  of  English 
people,  to  whom  those  works  did  not  apply.  This  was  ridic- 
ulous, English  society  being  quite  as  deeply,  though  by 
reason  of  the  national  hypocrisy,  not  so  openly  corrupt  as 
French  society.  As  for  the  case  of  Fran§oise  Mouche  and 
the  cow,  La  Coliche,  one  might  have  found,  as  already  stated, 
numerous  instances  of  young  girls  being  similarly  employed 
in  Great  Britain.  But  of  course  such  matters  were  not  to  be 
spoken  of  or  written  about !  They  must  be  cloaked  over, 
covered  up,  so  that  they  might  continue  unhindered !  Be- 
sides, it  was  abominable  to  assert  such  things.  The  rural 
districts  of  England  were  moral  paradises,  safe  in  the  guar- 
dianship of  parson  and  squire !  Only  London  was  immoral, 
poor,  wicked  London,  which  bears  the  weight  of  many  a  sin 
which  is  not  its  own.  It  would  be  interesting,  indeed,  to  know 
how  far  those  moral  paradises,  the  rural  districts,  contribute 
to  the  illegitimate  births  with  which  London  is  at  times 
reproached.  Is  there  even  a  single  day  in  the  year  when 
London  does  not  witness  the  arrival  in  its  midst  of  some 
unfortunate  country  girls  who  have  left  their  homes  to  hide 
their  shame  among  the  multitude  of  its  inhabitants  ? 

But  one  must  return  to  the  trial.  When  Sir  Edward 
Clarke  had  read  a  few  of  his  extracts  the  demeanour  of  the 
jury  and  their  repeated  interruptions  plainly  indicated  what 
their  verdict  would  be.  Even  then,  no  doubt,  the  better 
course  would  have  been  to  let  the  trial  proceed,  in  order 
that  counsel  might  have  his  opportunity  of  presenting  the 
defence,  if  not  for  the  enlightenment  of  the  jury,  at  least 


280    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER 

for  that  of  the  public  at  large.  Mere  passages,  —  there 
were  twenty-five,  some,  no  doubt,  rather  long  ones,  incrimi- 
nated in  a  volume  of  hundreds  of  pages  —  proved  nothing. 
One  might  find  scores  and  scores  of  passages  in  the  Bible 
which  if  taken  without  the  context  and  the  general  know- 
ledge one  has  of  the  book  might  make  it  appear  undesirable. 
In  the  case  of  "The  Soil,"  the  facts  should  have  been 
expounded,  whether  they  influenced  the  jury  or  not. 
But  Vizetelly's  counsel,  Mr.  Williams,  was  evidently  quite 
disheartened;  he  deemed  it  useless  to  prolong  the  case; 
and  so  after  the  briefest  of  consultations  the  plea  of  "  not 
guilty"  was  withdrawn  for  one  of  "guilty."  It  was  a 
complete  collapse, 

Mr.  Williams,  however,  began  to  address  the  Eecorder 
in  mitigation  of  punishment,  and  in  doing  so  referred  to 
Zola  as  "  a  great  French  writer."  "  Oh,  no,  a  voluminous 
Trench  writer,  if  you  like,"  said  Sir  Edward  Clarke.  "  A 
popular  French  writer,"  the  Recorder  suggested.  "A  writer 
who  certainly  stands  high  among  the  literary  men  of 
France,"  Mr.  Williams  retorted;  whereupon  Sir  Edward 
Clarke  exclaimed  in  a  pompous  way,  "  Do  not  malign  the 
literature  of  France  ! "  Whether  the  Solicitor-general  was 
qualified  to  express  any  opinion  of  weight  on  the  literature 
of  France  might  well  have  been  doubted  by  all  who  had 
heard  him  pronounce  the  name  "  Jean."  But  Mr.  Williams 
got  in  a  last  word.  Confirming  his  description  of  Zola, 
he  said:  "It  is  apparent  to  all  who  have  studied  the 
literature  of  France  at  the  present  day." l  And  he  might 
have  added  that  Zola  had  but  lately  been  made  a  knight 

1  "  The  Queen  v,  Henry  Vizetelly."  Transcript  from  the  shorthand  notes 
of  Messrs.  Barnett  and  Buckler,  of  Eolls  Chambers,  Chancery  Lane» 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEE    281 

of  the  Legion  of  Honour  for  the  very  book,  for  having  issued 
an  expurgated  edition  of  which  Vizetelly  was  about  to 
be  punished.  On  that  subject  Sir  Edward  Clarke  stated 
that  he  did  not  ask  for  imprisonment,  and  however  much 
one  may  differ  from  him,  particularly  in  literary  matters, 
it  is  essential  one  should  recognise  that,  having  won  the 
day,  he  showed  some  forbearance.  Vizetelly  had  natu- 
rally pleaded  guilty,  not  only  to  the  indictment  respecting 
"The  Soil,"  but  to  those  respecting  "Nana"  and  "Piping 
Hot,"  which  were  not  gone  into.  The  Kecorder  admonished 
him  and  then  sentenced  him  to  pay  a  fine  of  a  hundred 
pounds  and  to  enter  into  his  recognisances  in  two  hundred 
pounds  to  be  of  good  behaviour  for  twelve  months.1 

But  a  very  important  matter  has  still  to  be  mentioned. 
A  certain  undertaking  was  given  in  court  respecting  the 
Zola  translations  published  by  Vizetelly.  The  present 
writer,  his  brothers,  and  many  friends  who  were  present, 
as  well  as  the  defendant  himself,  distinctly  understood  that 
undertaking  to  be  that  the  three  incriminated  volumes  and 
all  other  works  by  Zola  which  were  as  objectionable  as 
those  three  should  be  withdrawn  from  circulation;  but 
it  was  not  said  that  none  of  Zola's  books  should  ever 
be  sold.  On  that  point  it  is  advisable  to  quote  the  short- 
hand writers'  transcript,  which  shows  how  the  Solicitor- 
general  interpreted  the  undertaking :  "  Sir  Edward,  Clarke  ; 
Of  course  I  am  very  glad  that  a  course  has  been  taken 
which  will  not  only  stop  from  circulation  the  three  books 
contained  in  these  indictments,  but  which  carries  with 

1  Sir  Thos,  Chambers  remarked  that  the  books  were  not  of  a  seductive 
character,  but  "  repulsive  and  revolting,"  and  of  course  that  was  what  Zola,  in 
a  sense,  had  tried  to  make  them. 


282    6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

it  an  undertaking  by  Mr,  Vizetelly  that  he  will  be  no 
party  to  the  circulation  of  any  other  of  the  works  which 
M.  Zola  has  produced,  any  others  —  I  should  like  to  say  — 
which  are  at  least  as  objectionable  as  those  which  are 
indicted  before  your  Lordship  to-day ." 

According  to  the  writer's  recollection,  and  that  of  his 
relatives  and  friends,  Mr.  Williams  in  giving  the  under- 
taking applied  to  the  incriminated  books  the  expression, 
*<  in  their  present  form  " ;  but  these  words  do  not  appear  in 
the  shorthand  notes  which  the  writer  holds.  Nevertheless 
the  language  of  Sir  Edward  Clarke  suggests  that  some 
similar  words  had  been  used.  It  followed  that  Vizetelly, 
in  all  good  faith,  believed  that  he  was  entitled  to  sell 
Zola's  books  if  he  rendered  them  unobjectionable  by  further 
expurgation.  But  when  other  proceedings  ensued  it  was 
even  suggested  that  he  was  not  entitled  to  sell  them  under 
any  cirenmstances ;  and  he  was  actually  admonished  for 
having  inserted  in  his  catalogue  the  words  "Undergoing 
revision1*  after  the  titles  of  "La  Terre"  and  "Nana" 
This  plainly  showed  that  the  real  secret  desire  of  the 
authorities  and  the  "  Vigilants  "  was  to  suppress  translations 
of  Zola  altogether.  They  cared  not  a  jot  what  Vizetelly 
might  attempt  in  order  to  satisfy  their  narrow  puritanism, 
they  were  determined  to  regard  all  expurgation  as  inade- 
quate, to  pursue  and  persecute  Vizetelly  till  he  abandoned 
that  author  altogether.  And  to  effect  this  they  were  ready 
to  strain  the  law  as  it  had  never,  perhaps,  been  strained 
before. 

Meantime  Zola,  who  naturally  heard  of  Vizetelly's  trial, 
attached,  personally,  little  importance  to  it.  He  held  that 
the  English  were  making  themselves  ridiculous  by  setting 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEB    283 

up  a  puritanical  standard  of  morality  when  their  own 
literature  contained  many  examples  of  outspokenness  going 
far  beyond  anything  that  he  had  ventured  upon.  Apart 
from  the  writers  of  the  past,  he  had  some  acquaintance 
with  modern  English  novels  such  as  had  been  translated 
into  French,  there  being  various  series  of  that  kind;1 
and  he  took  the  view  that  many  of  them,  with  the  glamour 
they  cast  over  vice  and  even  their  artful  reticence,  were 
certainly  calculated  to  demoralise  people,  whereas  his  own 
rough  frankness  could  only  give  the  reader  a  shock,  as  in- 
deed it  was  intended  to  do.  At  the  same  time  he  was 
not  surprised  at  the  outcry,  for  there  had  been  one  in 
France,  where  the  ground  was  far  better  prepared  for  out- 
spokenness than  in  England,  where  the  cant  of  the  Victorian 
era  had  ever  striven  to  set  restrictions  on  the  novelist's 
art.  Thackeray,  we  know,  had  chafed  under  them,  and 
had  written  on  his  preface  to  "  Pendennis  " :  "  Even  the 
gentlemen  of  our  age  .  ,  ,  we  cannot  show  as  they  are, 
with  the  notorious  foibles  and  selfishness  of  their  lives  and 
their  education.  Since  the  author  of  'Torn  Jones'  was 
buried  no  writer  of  fiction  among  us  has  been  permitted 
to  depict  to  Ms  utmost  power  a  MAN.  We  must  drape 
him,  and  give  Mm  a  certain  conventional  simper,  Society 
will  not  tolerate  the  Natural2  in  our  Art." 


1  On  consulting  the  **  BibliograpMe  de  la  France **  some  years  ago,  for 
particulars  concerning  English  fiction  in  France,  the  writer  found  that  in 
1886  French  publishers  issued  translations  of  fifty-four  English  novels ;  in 
1887,  translations  of  sixty-one ;  and  in  1888,  thirty-nine.  The  total  number 
of  English  (and  American)  works  of  all  classes  published  in  French  in  1888 
was  one  hundred  and  twenty-three,  but  of  these  forty -two  were  merely  new 
editions,  leaving  the  number  of  the  translations  first  issued  in  that  year  at 
eighty-one. 

a  This  is  perhaps  the  earliest  reference  to  Naturalism  in  English  literature. 


284  £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

As  for  the  issue  of  the  affair  for  the  Vketellys,  of  whom 
Zola  then  knew  little,  having  only  had  a  few  business  trans- 
actions with  them,  he  did  not  feel  deeply  affected,  for 
the  matter  seemed  to  him  to  resolve  itself  into  a  moderate 
pecuniary  loss  which,  he  imagined,  the  defendant  would 
be  well  able  to  incur,  having  made  considerable  profits  on 
the  incriminated  books.1  Tor  the  rest,  when  in  later  years 
Ernest  Vizetelly  showed  him  various  newspaper  cuttings 
imputing  to  him  a  variety  of  statements,  Zola  remarked  that 
some  he  had  never  made,  while  as  for  others  his  words  had 
evidently  been  misconstrued. 

As  it  happened,  the  affair  proved  far  more  serious  for 
Yizetelly  &  Co.  than  Zola  had  thought  possible.  The 
firm  then  had  several  thousand  pounds  locked  up  in  illus- 
trated books  which  were  not  nearly  ready  for  publication. 
The  sales  of  its  existing  books  had  been  declining  for 
several  months,  so  that  its  receipts  had  become  small, 
though  its  expenses  remained  heavy  and  it  had  liabilities 
such  as  are  always  incurred  in  trade.  Under  these  circum- 
stances it  was  felt  that  the  Zola  translations,  being  a 
valuable  property,  could  not  be  entirely  sacrificed.  The 
undertaking  given  in  court  was  interpreted  in  the  sense 
previously  indicated,  and,  though  the  books  were  absolutely 

1  In  various  instances  Vizetelly  &  Co.  had  acquired  its  interest  in  Zola's 
works  from  third  parties  who  had  bought  the  rights  direct  from  the  author. 
In  some  cases,  under  the  law  of  that  time,  the  copyrights  had  lapsed ;  and 
anybody  could  issue  translations  of  the  hooks  so  circumstanced.  This  will 
explain  the  circulation  of  several  of  the  American  versions  in  England. 
However  Vizetelly  &  Co.,  as  soon  as  practicable,  put  things  on  such  a  basis 
as  to  protect  all  Zola's  new  books,  purchasing  the  sole  British  rights  from  him 
or  from  his  assigns.  At  the  outset  Zola  received  moderate  sums;  later,  after 
Ernest  Vizetelly  and  Messrs.  Chatto  had  taken  his  interests  in  hand,  the 
payments  rose  considerably.  In  America  a  royalty  of  fifteen  per  cent  waa 
usually  paid,  Zola  taking  two-thirds  and  E,  Yizetelly  one-third  of  it. 


&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   EEFOBMEE  285 

withdrawn  for  a  time,  it  was  decided  to  put  them  on  the 
market  again  after  they  had  been  adequately  expurgated. 

A  good  deal  of  this  work  was  entrusted  to  Ernest 
Vizetelly,  but  he  was  hampered  by  important  restrictions. 
He  learnt  that  the  books  were  stereotyped  and  that  his 
alterations  must  be  such  as  might  be  effected  in  the  plates, 
for  it  would  be  too  expensive  to  reset  the  books  in  their 
entirety,  though  a  few  pages  might  be  reset  here  and  there. 
Under  these  conditions,  as  sentences  and  paragraphs  often 
had  to  be  struck  out  or  considerably  abbreviated,  it  became 
very  difficult  to  fill  the  gaps  which  occurred.  Ernest  Viz- 
etelly  at  least  did  the  best  he  could.  He  spent  two  months 
on  the  work  and  deleted  or  modified  three  hundred  and 
twenty-five  pages  of  the  fifteen  volumes  handed  to  Mm. 
Henry  Vizetelly  was  in  poor  health  at  the  time ;  but  he 
himself  attended  to  a  few  volumes,  and  his  son's  work  was 
sent  to  him  for  inspection  before  it  was  forwarded  to  the 
printers.  Whether  he  himself  went  through  it  in  its 
entirety  or  not  cannot  be  stated  positively ;  but  at  all  events 
the  work  was  passed,  and  some  of  the  Zola  volumes  were 
reissued. 

Soon  afterwards  the  "National  Vigilants,"  elated  by 
their  previous  easy  victory,  returned  to  the  warpath. 
Henry  Vizetelly  was  again  summoned,  this  time  for  selling 
the  following  books :  "  The  Assommoir,"  a  Germinal,"  "  Fat 
and  Thin"  ("Le  Ventre  de  Paris"),  "The  Eush  for  the 
Spoil "  ("  La  Curfe  "), «  AbW  Mouret's  Transgression,"  "  How 
Jolly  Life  is  "  ("La  Joie  de  Vivre"),  "The  Fortune  of  the 
Kougons,"  and  "His  Excellency  E.  Eougon,"  by  Zola; 
"  Madame  Bovary,"  by  Gustave  Flaubert ;  "  A  Love  Crime," 
by  Paul  Bourget ;  "A  Woman's  Life  "  and  "  A  Ladies'  Man  " 


286      TftMTLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

(MBal  Ami**),  %  Guy  de  Maupassant  At  the  same  time 
W*  M.  Thomson,  discharged  when  summoned  for  "The 
Decameron/*  was  prosecuted  for  selling  a  translation  of 
"  The  Heptameron,"  as  well  as  other  works ;  and  other  book- 
sellers were  likewise  proceeded  against  in  connection  with 
some  of  the  American  versions  of  Zola's  novels.  The  cases 
were  heard  by  Mr.  Vaughan,  a  testy  old  magistrate  who  long 
presided  at  Bow  Street,  and  who  committed  Vizetelly  for 
trial  with  respect  to  the  following  works:  Zola's  "Abb^ 
Mouret's  Transgression/*  "The  Rush  for  the  Spoil,"  "Fat 
and  Thin"  "His  Excellency  E.  Bougon,"  "How  Jolly  Life 
is  " ;  Bouiget's  "  Love  Crime  "  and  Maupassant's  "  Ladies' 
Man,*1  A  few  objections  had  been  raised  in  the  press 
apropos  of  the  prosecution  of  **  Madame  Bovary,"  and  with 
the  gracious  approval  of  the  great  Stead  of  the  "Maiden 
Tribute,1*  the  summons  respecting  tibat  work  was  eventually 
adjourned  nne  die.1 

"When  Vizetelly  returned  to  his  office  from  Bow  Street  on 
the  day  of  his  committal,  he  took  the  only  course  consistent 
with  integrity.  He  assigned  everything  he  possessed  for 
the  benefit  of  his  creditors,  in  order  that  his  business  might 
be  liquidated.  It  was  impossible  to  carry  it  on  any  longer. 
The  wreckers  had  resolved  to  ruin  him,  and  had  succeeded 
to  their  hearts*  desire.  Friends  came  and  expressed  their 
sympathy — among  others,  Sir  Henry  Irving,  the  late  Sir 
John  Gilbert,  and  Mr.  Birket  Foster  —  but  there  was  virtu- 
ally no  opportunity  for  any  public  protest  Not  a  news- 

1  The  same  course  was  taken  with,  the  summonses  for  "  L'Assonamoir," 
"Germinal,"  and  "The  Fortune  of  the  Rougons."  And  that  against 
Thomson  with  regard  to  "The  Heptameron"  was  withdrawn  because  the 
prosecution  had  mislaid  its  copy  of  the  work. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    287 

paper  now  dared  to  print  a  word  on  behalf  of  this  old 
servant  of  the  press  whom  the  "  Vigilante "  had  chosen 
for  their  victim.  On  the  morrow  of  the  first  trial  the 
"leader"  writers  had  hastened  to  avail  themselves  of  his 
plea  of  guilty  to  pass  unanimous  condemnation  on  him. 
The  delighted  "  Vigilante  "  had  promptly  printed  and  circu- 
lated extracts  from  the  "Times,"  "St.  James's  Gazette/' 
"Whitehall  Review,"  "Star"  "Globe,"  "Morning  Adver- 
tiser," "  Saturday  Review,"  "  Methodist  Times  "  "  Liverpool 
Mercury,"  and  "  Western  Morning  News  " ;  and  those  sam- 
ples of  English  press  opinion  might  have  been  multiplied 
indefinitely.  They  showed  all  parties  in  agreement:  the 
Tories  and  the  Radicals,  the  Puritans  and  the  Publicans. 
Coote,  the  secretary  to  the  "  Vigilants,"  had  become  censor 
wiorum,  and  all  bowed  to  his  authority.  Yet  some  members 
of  this  so-called  "  National  Vigilance  Association  "  had  been 
mixed  up  in  various  nefarious  matters.  There  had  been,  as 
Mr.  George  Moore  subsequently  wrote,  "the  case  of  an 
unfortunate  foreign  prince,  who  was  dragged  into  court 
on  a  charge  of  abduction  or  seduction,  or  both;  when 
the  matter  came  to  be  sifted  it  was  found  that  he  was 
absolutely  and  wholly  innocent.  So  conclusive  and  so 
unimpeachable  was  the  evidence,  that  Mr.  Besley,  who 
prosecuted  for  the  Association,  had  to  admit  that  he  had 
nothing  to  say,  and  the  judge  replied,  *  I  should  think  not, 
indeed.1  "* 

Again  there  was  a  notorious  Leamington  case  in  which 
the  "Vigilants"  prosecuted,  and  in  which,  as  Mr.  Moore 
again  pointed  out,  it  was  proved  that  two  women  clandes- 

1  "The  New  Censorship  of  Literature/'  by  George  Moore,  "New  York 
Herald,"  London  edition,  July  28,  1889, 


288     &MILE  ZOLA,   NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER 

tinely  took  an  innocent  girl  from  her  employment,  piled  her 
with  filthy  questions,  threatened  her,  and  induced  her  to 
sign  a  paper  which  might  have  led  to  a  boy  of  fifteen  being 
sent  to  prison  for  two  years  !  * 

And  this  was  the  class  of  person  that  assumed  the  prerog- 
ative of  Literary  Censorship.  The  press  prostrated  itself 
before  the  new  Terror,  and  the  Government  supported  it  by 
again  taking  up  the  prosecution  of  Vizetelly.  The  trustees 
of  his  estate  resolved  to  fight  the  case  and  provided  funds 
for  that  purpose,  but  while  the  selection  of  counsel  was  in 
abeyance,  Mr.  Frank  Harris,  then  editor  of  "The  Fort- 
nightly Review/'  and  one  of  the  few  who  realised  that  an 
odious  tyranny  was  being  established,  generously  offered  to 
bear  all  Vizetelly's  expenses.  Mr.  Harris  desired,  however, 
that  the  defence  should  now  be  entrusted  entirely  to  Mr. 
Cluer,  who  had  acted  as  Vketelly's  junior  counsel  at  the 
first  trial,  and  who  had  also  appeared  for  him  at  the  recent 
police  court  proceedings.  There  were  various  advantages 
in  such  a  course*  Mr.  Chiefs  knowledge  of  the  French 
language  was  perfect;  he  had  read  Zola's  works  in  the 
original,  and  he  knew  with  what  a  lofty  purpose  Zola 
wrote.  The  present  writer  favoured  the  suggested  arrange- 
ment, but  he  had  no  power  in  the  matter.  Any  sugges- 
tions he  made  were  invariably  set  aside  throughout  the 
affair,  on  the  ground  that  he  had  not  been  long  resident  in 
England,  that  there  were  many  things  which  he  did  not 
properly  understand,  and  so  forth.  There  was  some  truth, 
no  doubt,  in  those  objections  ;  but  it  often  happens  that  a 


and  "Daily  Chronicle,"  January  12,  13,  and  16,  1894.  In  the 
latter  journal  (January  13)  Coote  denied  that  "  threats  were  used  to  induce  the 
girl  to  confess  crimes"  ;  Mr.  Moore  retorted  (January  16)  by  giving  the  report 
of  the  case. 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMER    289 

person  who  stands  a  little  apart  from  a  battle  has  a  clearer 
perception  of  its  chances  than  those  who  are  actually  en- 
gaged in  it.  The  writer  feared  that  a  fresh  conviction  was 
virtually  inevitable,  but  he  also  felt  that  Mr.  Cluer  would  do 
his  best  for  his  client,  and  that  the  ship,  though  it  might 
well  go  down,  would  then  at  least  do  so  with  colours  flying. 
But  it  was  held  imperative  that  a  Queen's  Counsel  must  be 
engaged,  for  it  would  be  ridiculous  to  pit  a  stuff-gowns- 
man against  the  Solicitor-general!  And  so,  after  various 
delays  and  difficulties,  as  on  the  former  occasion,  the  late 
Mr.  Cock,  Q.  C.,  was  retained,  Mr.  Cluer  again  being  secured 
as  junior  counsel 

Henry  Tizetelly  and  his  trustees  were  still  resolved  to 
fight  the  case,  after  their  own  fashion;  and  by  way  of 
answering  any  charge  of  having  broken  the  previous  un- 
dertaking it  was  proposed  that  Ernest  Vizetelly  should 
give  evidence  respecting  the  recent  expurgation  of  Zola's 
books.  His  father  inquiring  if  he  were  prepared  to  do  so, 
he  immediately  assented.  He  went  further:  he  agreed  to 
take,  so  far  as  the  Zola  volumes  were  concerned,  at  least 
the  odium  of  this  second  affair  on  himself  by  assuming 
responsibility  for  what  had  been  dona  It  was  impossible 
for  him  to  hesitate,  —  no  son  would  hesitate  to  shield  his 
father  as  far  as  might  be  possible,1  —  but  now  that  the 
time  has  come  to  write  of  these  matters  he  owes  it  to 
himself,  and  particularly  to  his  children,  to  point  out  that 
the  responsibility  which  he  assumed  was  not  really  his. 
The  expurgatory  work  he  had  accomplished  had  been  lim- 

1  Frank  Vizetelly,  on  whom  as  one  of  the  managers  of  the  business  the 
summons  was  actually  served,  had  offered  to  take  full  liability  for  the  sales, 
"but  his  father  would  not  allow  it, 

19 


290    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Ited  "by  the  conditions  imposed  on  him;  within  them  he 
had  done  his  best;  but,  even  then,  he  had  submitted  his 
work  for  approval,  saying:  "This  is  all  I  can  do.  If  any- 
thing further  is  required  another  must  do  it"  He  knows, 
by  the  "  proof "  slips  in  his  possession,  that  a  few  further 
alterations  were  made  in  his  work,  the  bulk  of  which, 
however,  was  passed,  and  sent  to  the  printers*  He  was 
not  surprised  by  that,  and  would  not  be  surprised  by  it 
now,  for  he  holds  that  the  alterations  he  made  were  suffi- 
cient to  satisfy  everybody  except  fanatical  Puritans.  At 
the  same  time,  in  that  hour  of  frenzied  cant  and  unscru- 
pulous injustice  the  responsibility  he  assumed  was  no  light 
one,  for  even  though  he  could  not  be  proceeded  against 
at  law,  the  odium  attaching  to  it  might  be  very  preju- 
dicial to  him.  And  while  he  had  a  wife  and  children  to 
support,  he  had  no  interest  in  his  father's  business  be- 
yond being  its  paid  servant;  he  knew  that  it  had  been 
established  for  the  benefit  of  his  younger  brothers ;  which 
consideration  had  largely  deterred  him  from  pressing  his 
own  advice  during  the  affair,  for  he  did  not  wish  to  be 
accused  of  attempting  to  supplant  anybody.  If,  to-day,  he 
has  pointed  out  the  actual  circumstances  it  is  because  he 
does  not  wish  anybody  to  believe,  as  many  have  inferred  for 
years,  that  his  father's  ruin  and  imprisonment  proceeded 
from  any  neglect  of  his.  It  is  true  he  has  long  allowed 
that  to  be  thought, — it  might  be  assumed  from  the  account 
of  his  father  in  the  "  Dictionary  of  National  Biography,"  — 
but  the  facts  were  really  such  as  have  been  stated  here. 

Vizetelly  &  Co,  intending  to  fight  the  case,  as  soon  as 
the  amount  of  Mr.  Cock's  fee  had  been  ascertained  it  was 
voluntarily  increased  to  a  larger  one  in  order  to  induce 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     291 

Mm  to  do  his  utmost.  An  attempt  was  made  to  arrange 
a  consultation  some  days  before  the  trial,  but  as  a  matter 
of  fact  Mr.  Cock  was  not  seen  until  about  half  an  hour 
before  the  case  opened  at  the  Central  Criminal  Court,  on 
May  30,  1889.  Ernest  Vizetelly  accompanied  his  father, 
who  was  now  in  very  bad  health  indeed.  Mr.  Cluer  intro- 
duced them  to  Mr.  Cock,  and  a  conversation  took  place  in 
a  room  adjoining  the  robing  room  at  the  Old  Bailey.  At 
the  first  words,  Mr.  Cock  declared  there  could  be  no  de- 
fence. He  did  not  pause  to  argue.  It  was  plain  he  wished 
to  dispose  of  the  case  as  quickly  as  possible.  The  defend- 
ant, said  he,  must  throw  himself  on  the  mercy  of  the 
court,  that  was  the  only  thing  to  do.  Henry  Vizetelly, 
who  had  come  to  the  Old  Bailey  expecting  something  very 
different,  was  overwhelmed  by  this  intimation.  The  blow 
was  a  coup  de  massue  for  him,  and  at  first  he  could  say 
nothing.  His  son,  likewise  very  much  amazed,  and,  in 
particular,  disgusted  with  this  blustering  barrister  who 
threw  up  the  sponge  at  the  moment  of  going  into  court, 
tried  to  interject  a  few  words,  but  was  curtly  silenced. 
There  was  nothing,  nothing  to  be  done,  so  Cock,  Q.  C.,  re- 
peated. Under  the  circumstances  he  might  have  returned 
the  extra  fee  which  had  been  sent  him  to  induce  him  to 
make  a  good  fight,  but  he  never  did.  There  was,  however, 
one  course  that  he  was  willing  to  take  when  he  saw  the 
distress  of  his  ailing  old  client  He  offered  to  ascertain 
what  would  be  the  result  of  a  plea  of  « guilty."  To  Vize- 
telly's  son  that  seemed  a  strange  course  to  pursue.  He  did 
not  like  hanky-panky  or  aught  suggestive  of  it.  However, 
Mr.  Cock  rose  —  he  was  a  fat,  unwieldy  man,  with  a  startling 
red  face  —  and  rolled  out  of  the  room.  Whom  did  he  actu- 


292     tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

ally  see  ?  The  writer  Is  not  certain,  and  in  a  case  of  uncer- 
tainty it  is  best  to  stay  one's  pen.  But  when  Mr.  Cock 
returned  he  said  in  presence  of  the  defendant,  his  son,  and 
Mr.  Cluer,  that  the  Solicitor-general  was  not  leniently  in- 
clined and  that  Vizetelly's  recognisances  "to  be  of  good 
behaviour " would  have  to  be  estreated;  while  the  Recorder, 
Sir  Thomas  Chambers,  held  that  there  must  be  some  im- 
prisonment. Did  Henry  Vizetelly  hear  those  last  words  ? 
According  to  his  own  account,  afterwards,  he  never  did;  for 
had  he  done  so,  in  spite  of  all  Mr.  Cock's  bluster,  he  would 
never,  he  said,  have  pleaded  guilty.  But  the  poor  man  may 
well  have  misunderstood  his  counsel.  He  was  in  a  condi- 
tion little  short  of  actual  physical  collapse*  In  a  dreamy 
way,  as  it  were,  he  gave,  or  seemed  to  give,  a  feeble  assent 
to  everything.  Had  there  been  time,  his  son  would  have 
made  an  effort  to  reopen  the  question,  for  it  occurred  to 
him  that*  even  then,  one  might  perhaps  have  dispensed 
with  Mr.  Cock's  services  and  have  induced  Mr.  Cluer  to 
undertake  the  defence  unaided.  But  there  was  no  oppor- 
tunity for  further  deliberation ;  the  court  was  almost  wait- 
ing, and  one  went  downstairs  to  meet  the  inevitable. 

The  proceedings  were  brief*  Vizetelly  took  his  stand 
at  the  foot  of  the  solicitors'  table,  his  son  who  sat  there, 
and  wh.0  at  every  moment  feared  to  see  him  fall,  holding 
his  hand  the  while.  For  an  instant,  when  challenged,  he 
hesitated,  then  ejaculated  the  word  "guilty,"  much  as  if 
he  were  expectorating. 

Thus  the  case  was  never  argued  on  its  merits.  Of  course 
the  Solicitor-general  held  that  the  previous  undertaking  had 
been  violated,  and  asked  that  the  defendant's  recognisances 
in  two  hundred  pounds  should  be  estreated.  Then  Mr.  Cock 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER     293 

spoke  of  the  explication  of  the  books,  which  in  his  opinion 
a  had  not  gone  suffieently  far/*  and  added  that  the  defendant 
was  in  his  seventieth  year  and  in  very  delicate  health.  On 
that  point  Ernest  Vizetelly  testified  on  oath  that  his  father 
had  suffered  for  some  years  from  a  complaint  which  had  lately 
assumed  a  very  serious  character  and  necessitated  the  con- 
stant employment  of  surgical  instruments.  He  then  ima- 
gined his  examination  to  be  over,  and  was  about  to  leave 
the  witness-box  when  Sir  Ed  ward  Clarke  inquired  if  he  were 
a  member  of  the  firm  of  Vketelly  &  Co.  The  witness  an- 
swered in  the  negative,  he  was  a  journalist  by  profession, 
and  if  previously  employed  by  the  firm  he  had  then  ceased 
to  be  so.  But  the  Solicitor-general  pressed  him  for  the  pur- 
pose, so  it  seemed,  of  extracting  some  undertaking  with 
respect  to  the  future  sale  of  Zola's  works  or  the  destruc- 
tion of  the  existing  stock.  This  the  witness  had  no  power 
to  give,  and  he  was  determined  to  say  nothing  that  might 
lead  to  it  being  given  by  others.  As  the  pertinacity  of 
counsel  continued,  the  witness,  feeling  somewhat  ruffled, 
could  not  refrain  from  retorting :  "  You  have  made  the  de- 
fendant a  pauper !  What  more  do  you  want  ?  **  "  Now,  now,1* 
Sir  Edward  Clarke  shouted  back,  "  we  want  none  of  that  1 n 
"  Well,  I  have  nothing  else  to  say,"  the  witness  added.  *  I  do 
not  belong  to  the  firm  of  Yizetelly  &  Co.,  and  I  now  know 
nothing  about  it."  Thereupon  the  Solicitor-general,  some- 
what discomfited,  had  to  let  him  go. 

The  Eecorder  then  passed  sentence.  It  was  useless,  he 
said,  to  fine  the  defendant,  as  he  had  no  means  to  pay  a  fine. 
But  Ms  recognisances  must  be  estreated,  and  he  must  go  to 
prison,  as  a  first-class  misdemeanant,  for  three  months. 
Vizetelly  was  at  once  led  below;  and  his  son  applied, 


294     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

through  counsel,  for  leave  to  speak  with  him  before  he  was 
removed  to  jail  The  Recorder  granted  permission,  but  the 
son  was  not  allowed  to  follow  his  father*  He  and  Mr.  Lick- 
fold  (Vizetelly's  solicitor)  were  told  to  apply  at  the  small 
barred  gate  of  Newgate,  immediately  adjoining  the  Old  Bailey. 
They  went  thither  and  were  admitted.  A  warder,  or  at- 
tendant, was  told  of  the  permission  the  judge  had  given, 
and  went  to  make  inquiries.  Mr.  Lickfold  retired,  and  the 
writer  remained  waiting.  Presently  the  attendant  returned 
and  said  to  him;  "The  Governor's  answer  is  that  you  can- 
not see  the  prisoner.  The  judge  has  no  power  to  give  leave 
to  see  any  prisoner  when  once  he  has  left  the  court."  It 
was  useless  to  expostulate.  Ernest  Vizetelly  could  only  with- 
draw, in  considerable  distress,  for  he  knew  that  his  father 
in  the  state  of  his  health  would  require  prompt  attention 
and  relief;  and  he  had  been  anxious  to  do  what  he  could  in 
that  and  other  matters.1 

However,  he  met  his  brothers,  and  various  arrangements 
were  made  to  provide  for  their  father's  comfort.  As  the 
case  was  to  have  been  fought,  there  had  been  no  anticipation 
that  it  would  end  that  same  day,  and  nothing  was  actually 
ready.  At  last,  Holloway  being  the  jail  where  first-class 
misdemeanants  are  usually  lodged,  application  was  made 
there ;  but  the  officials  knew  nothing  whatever  of  Vizetelly, 
he  had  not  been  sent  to  them.  After  some  discussion 

*  At  the  risk  of  offending  some  readers  by  plain  speaking  the  writer  feels 
he  may  mention  that  his  father  was  suffering  from  a  stricture.  All  medical 
men  will  know  the  torture  that  ensues  when  the  sufferer  is  placed  under  such 
conditions  that  he  cannot  obtain  relief.  The  trial  having  suddenly  collapsed, 
no  medical  man  was  in  attendance  to  give  evidence.  Had  medical  evidence 
"been  given  it  is  possible  that  Sir  T.  Chambers  might  have  hesitated  to  pass  a 
sentence  of  imprisonment. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  295 

Ernest  and  his  brother  Frank  Vizetelly,  proceeded  to 
Pentonville,  where  they  were  received  very  courteously  by 
the  deputy  governor,  who  said  to  them ;  "  Yes,  your  father 
is  here.  Why  he  was  sent  I  do  not  know;  we  have  no 
accommodation  for  first-class  misdemeanants.  None  has 
ever  been  sent  here  before*  Your  father  is  in  a  shocking 
state,  he  had  been  suffering  for  hours  when  he  arrived  here ; 
I  have  placed  him  temporarily  in  our  infirmary.  I  tele- 
graphed to  the  Prison  Commissioners  but  have  had  no 
answer.  You  should  go  to  them  at  once  at  Whitehall,  and 
ask  them  to  remove  him  to  Holloway/' 

This  was  done.  The  facts  were  set  out  in  writing  and 
sent  in  to  some  of  the  Commissioners,  who,  after  an  inter- 
val of  an  hour  or  so,  received  Frank  Vizetelly,  and  airily 
told  him  that  there  was  no  mistake  at  all,  that  his  father 
had  been  sent  to  Holloway  and  would  be  found  there !  The 
fact  is  that,  while  the  sons  were  waiting,  telegraphic  instruc- 
tions had  been  sent  to  Pentonville  for  Vizetelly's  removal. 
That  could  not  be  effected  in  an  instant  on  account  of  his 
serious  condition,  but  when  he  was  lodged  in  the  infirmary 
at  Holloway  the  Commissioners  felt  they  were  safe  from 
any  charge  of  neglect  Ernest  Vizetelly,  however,  was  not 
disposed  to  let  the  matter  drop,  and  having  drafted  a  ques- 
tion for  the  Home  Secretary  (Mr.  Matthews)  he  wrote  to 
Mr.  Labouchere,  M.  P.,  to  inquire  if  he  would  ask  it  in  the 
House  of  Commons*  He  received  the  following  character- 
istic reply : 

Dear  Sir,  —  I  do  not  think  that  the  clerks  at  the  table  would 
accept  the  question  as  written,  for  it  enters  too  fully  into  details. 
However,  be  this  as  it  may,  I  should  not  be  the  proper  person  to 
ask  it,  for  I  have  had  many  actions  for  libels,  and  it  would  be 


296      MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

thought  that  I  had  an  eye  to  my  future  accommodation.    As  a 

matter  of  tactics,  I  should  advise  that  no  question  be  asked,  for 
the  only  parson  who  can  reduce  the  sentence  is  the  Home  Secre- 
tary. I  do  not  know  if  he  will,  bnt  lie  certainly  will  not  if  his 

back  be  put  up.  —  Yours  faithfully, 

H.  LABOUCHIRE. 

24  G  rosreaor  Gardens,  8.  W, 

Jane  L  [1889]. 

Mr.  Labouehere's  advice  was  certainly  good,  and  it  was 
followed.  That  is  why  the  facts  have  never  been  disclosed 
till  now. 

Little  more  need  be  added  here,  Henry  Vizetelly  left  a 
long  account  of  Ms  prison  experiences  which  the  writer 
may  some  day  print  He  was  fairly  well  treated  at  Hollo- 
way,1  bnt  he  writes  that  after  he  had  left  the  infirmary 
(of  which  he  was  long  an  inmate,  as  the  result  of  the 
neglect  in  which  he  was  left  immediately  after  his  trial) 
he  had  great  difficulty  in  obtaining  water  of  the  requisite 
heat  for  the  treatment  of  his  complaint,  his  room  (previously 
occupied  by  Edmund  Tates)  being  so  far  from  the  kitchens 
that,  as  a  rule,  the  water  was  almost  cold  by  the  time  it 
reached  him.  His  health  naturally  deteriorated  in  confine- 
ment, but  he  did  his  best  to  look  at  things  cheerfully,  and 
found  occupation  in  planning  various  literary  enterprises. 
Several  friends,  notably  Edmund  Yates,  showed  great  kind- 
ness at  this  time.  Mr,  George  Moore  did  his  best  to  ven- 
tilate the  whole  question  of  the  prosecution  and  Robert 
Buchanan  wrote  an  able  pamphlet  under  the  grim  title  of 
"  On  Descending  into  HelL"  Ernest  VLsetelly  was  then 

1  He  had1  tlie  usual  privileges  of  a  first-class  misdemeanant.  His  food  was 
sent  him  from  outside,  lie  had  some  "books  and  periodicals  at  Ms  disposal, 
and  a  few  articles  of  furniture  were  sent  from  Ms  home. 


J&MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      297 

chiefly  occupied  in  preparing  and  circulating  a  memorial  to 
the  Home  Secretary,  praying  for  his  father's  release  on  vari- 
ous grounds.  Though  two  or  three  of  the  newspapers  were 
already  beginning  to  think  that  matters  had  been  car- 
ried too  far,  few  journalists,  unless  friends,  were  asked  for 
their  signatures ;  but  Vizetelly's  son  had  the  satisfaction  of 
securing  the  support  of  several  notable  authors  with  whom 
he  had  never  previously  held  communication.  Their  letters 
of  sympathy  touched  him  deeply,  and  showed  him  that 
though  the  newspaper  press  might  be  so  largely  under  the 
thumb  of  the  "  National  Vigilants,"  there  were  men  of  letters 
of  high  standing  who  retained  all  their  independence  of 
thought.  A  few,  it  is  true,  made  certain  reserves  with  re- 
spect to  Zola's  works,  but  all  felt  that  Henry  Vketelly 
ought  not  to  have  been  treated  so  harshly.  The  writer,  un- 
fortunately, has  preserved  no  complete  list  of  those  who 
signed  the  petition  (from  one  hundred  to  one  hundred  and 
fifty  in  number),  and  he  must  apologise  for  the  many  omis- 
sions in  the  one  that  follows.  It  will  be  noticed  that  it 
contains  the  names  of  half  a  dozen  lady  writers,  as  well  as 
those  of  some  prominent  artists,  who  remembered  Vizetelly's 
work  as  a  wood-engraver,  and  all  he  had  done  for  the 
pictorial  press : 

"  Sir  Algernon  Borthwick  (now  Lord  Glenesk),  M.  P.,  Sir  E. 
W.  Watkin,  M.  P.,  T.  P.  O'Connor,  M.  P.,  Samuel  Storey,  M.  P., 
Charles  Bradlaugh,  M.  P.,  Dr.  C.  Cameron,  M.  P.,  The  Earl  of 
Desart,  Sir  J.  E.  Millais,  R.  A.,  Sir  John  Gilbert,  R.  A.,  W.  P. 
Frith,  R.  A.,  Birket  Foster,  Linley  Sambourne,  Harry  Furniss, 
George  du  Maurier,  Prof.  Henry  Morley,  Prof.  Geddes,  J.  Arthur 
Thomson,  Edmund  Gosse,  Dr.  R.  Garnett,  Dr.  F.  J.  Fumivall, 
Oscar  Browning,  John  Addington  Symonds,  Leslie  Stephen,  Dr. 


298     &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

R.  Maitland  Coffin,  Norman  Maceoll,  James  S.  Cotton,  St.  Loe 
Strachey,  HOEU  Roden  Noel,  Havelock  Ellis,  Robert  Buchanan, 
Walter  Besant,  Hon.  Lewis  Wingfield,  Thomas  Hardy,  George 
Moore,  W.  Clark  Russell,  H.  Rider  Haggard,  Hall  Caine,  *  Ouida/ 
Mrs.  Frances  Hodgson  Burnett,  Mrs.  E.  Lynn  Linton,  Mrs. 
Mona  Caird,  'John  Strange  Winter,'  Olive  Schreiner,  Mabel 
Collins,  Harriett  Jay,  G.  A.  Sala,  Edmund  Yates,  Frank  Harris, 
Archibald  Forbes,  H.  W.  Lucy,  H,  D,  Traill,  A.  W.  Pinero, 
William  Archer,  Augustus  Harris,  Sir  Henry  Irving,  Henry  Arthur 
Jones,  Fitzgerald  Molloy,  Ernest  Rhys,  S.  W.  Orson,  Hon.  F,  C, 
Lawley,  H.  Sutherland  Edwards,  J.  C.  Parkinson,  D.  L.,  Arthur 
Symons,  Alex.  C.  Ewald,  W.  R.  S,  Ralston,  Max  O'Rell,  Savile 
Clarke,  Brinsley  Nicholson,  Q.  Laurence  Gomme,  Frank  A,  Mar- 
shall, Grant  Allen,  Frederick  and  James  Greenwood,  G.  B.  Le 
Fanu,  F.  C.  Philips,  William  Sharp,  C.  H.  Williamson,  William 
Senior,  H.  T.  Wharton,  Julius  Mayhew,  W.  H.  Dircks,  Frank 
T,  MarxiflOs,  W,  Faux,  of  W.  H.  Smith  <fc  Sons." 

Various  persons  in  official  positions,  whom  etiquette  pre- 
vented from  signing  the  memorial — for  instance  Lord  Lyi> 
ton  ("  Owen  Meredith"),  then  British  Ambassador  in  Paris, 
—  conveyed  privately  to  Ernest  Vizetelly  their  hope  that  it 
might  prove  successful,  but  the  only  response  of  the  Home 
Secretary  was  that  he  could  not  advise  her  Majesty  to  inter- 
fere in  the  case.  Thus  Yizetelly  completed  his  "  time "  at 
Holloway,  being  released  at  the  end  of  August,  1889.  He 
returned  to  his  home  at  Putney,  and  afterwards  removed 
with  his  daughter  and  his  son  Arthur  to  Heatherlands,  near 
Tilford,  Surrey,  where  he  spent,  in  suffering,  the  few  years 
that  were  left  him.  They  happily  sufficed  for  him  to  see  in 
England  a  considerable  revulsion  of  feeling  with  respect  to 
femile  Zola  —  of  whom  he  had  prophesied,  in  his  letter  to 
Sir  A.  K.  Stephenson,  that  time  would  bring  round  its  re- 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       299 

venges.  It  will  be  necessary  to  allude  to  tim  hereafter  in 
connection  with  Zola's  first  stay  in  London,  but  here  one 
need  only  add  that  he  died  on  January  1, 1894,  after  a  final 
distressing  illness.  And  the  little  graveyard  of  the  village 
of  Churt  became  the  last  resting-place  of  the  man  who  was 
persecuted  by  the  Pecksniffs  of  Great  Britain,  and  whom  the 
**  Dictionary  of  National  Biography  "  describes  as  the  pioneer 
of  the  world's  pictorial  press. 


THE  LAST  EOUGON-MACQUAETS  — THE  FEENGH 
ACADEMY— A  VISIT  TO   LONDON 

1888-1893 

**  Le  R&Te  M  —  How  Zola  rid  himself  of  Ms  obesity  —  **  Germinal "  as  a  play 

—  "  La  BSte  Hnniaine  '*  —  Zola  longs  to  stagger  the  world  —  He  becomes 
a  candidate  for  the  Academy  —  Why  he  failed  to  secure  election  —  His 
novels  "Lf Argent"  and  "La  Debacle"  —  Ernest  Vketelly's  position  — 
He  resolves  to  revive  Zola  in  England  —  Translation  of  **  La  D&b&cle  "  — 
Its  reception  in  England  —  English  opinion  and  Zola  —  French  attacks  on 
him  —  He  visits  Genoa —  He  writes  **  Le  Docteur  Pascal "  —  Conclusion  of 
the  Rongon-Macquart  series  —  A  few  figures  respecting  it  —  Zola  is  made 
an  Officer  of  the  Legion  of  Honour  —  A  reception  in  the  Bois  de  Boulogne 

—  An  address  to  the  Paris  students  —  Zola  and  the  Socie'te*  des  Gens  de 
Lettre* —  He  is  invited  to  London  by  the  Institute  of  Journalists — He 
hesitates  to  accept  the  invitation  —  Correspondence  with  Yizetelly  —  His 
reception  in  London  —  His  paper  on  **  Anonymity  in  Journalism  "  —  At 
the  Crystal  Palace,  the  Imperial   Institute,  and  the  Guildhall -— The 
Authors'  Club  dinner—  Visits  to  Westminster  Abbey,  the  National  Gal- 
lery,  and  the  British  Musenm  —  Some  general  impressions  of  London  — 
The  English  visit  and  the  French  Academy. 

IN  1888,  while  Zola  was  being  attacked  so  virulently  in 
England  he  produced  Ms  story  "Le  K§ve,"  which  some 
people  regarded  as  indicating  not  only  a  new  departure  on 
his  part  but  an  endeavour  to  conciliate  his  enemies.  In  the 
first  place,  however,  with  regard  to  literary  style,  "  Le  Re've  " 
was  merely  a  return  to  the  idyllic  manner  of  "  Les  Contes  & 
Mnon,"  and  "  La  Faute  de  l'Abb£  Mouret " ;  and  secondly 
it  has  been  shown I  that  the  idea  of  this  work  occurred  to 
the  novelist  even  before  he  had  finished  "La  Terre,"  and  that 
he  started  on  it  immediately  his  book  on  the  peasantry 
was  completed.  It  seems  certain,  therefore,  that "  Le  B§ve  " 
i  Sherard,  7.  c.,  p.  228. 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  301 

was  not  the  forced  outcome  of  any  outcry,  as  many  have 
supposed,  —  as  a  matter  of  fact  Zola  never  yielded  to  any 
outcries,  —  but  came  from  him  spontaneously,  as  part  of 
his  general  scheme.  Beginning  the  book  in  August,  1887, 
he  finished  it  in  August  the  following  year,  when  it  ran 
serially  (from  April  till  October)  in  a  publication  called  "  La 
Eevue  Illustrde." 

About  the  time  when  Yizetelly's  difficulties  with  his 
English  translations  were  just  beginning,  the  British  rights 
in  "Le  R§ve"  were  purchased  by  others,  who  issued  a 
version  of  the  story  in  a  few  newspapers  under  their 
control,  and  subsequently  offered  the  book-rights  at  a 
somewhat  high  figure  to  Vizetelly.  He  —  the  proceedings 
against  him  having  now  commenced  —  declined  them,  with- 
out troubling  even  to  look  at  the  book ;  and  this  was  very 
unfortunate,  for  whatever  may  have  been  Zola's  purpose  in 
writing  "  Le  K§ve,"  it  was  a  work  to  make  even  Pecksniffs 
reflect  that  this  much-abused  French  author  might  not 
really  be  so  pornographically  inclined  as  they  imagined. 
In  any  case,  if  the  translation  of  "Le  KSve,"  instead  of 
running  merely  through  sundry  provincial  newspapers,  had 
appeared  in  volume  form  in  London  during  the  agitation 
raised  by  the  "Yigilants,"  it  might  well  have  proved  a 
useful  auxiliary  to  the  defence. 

If  it  were  a  mistake  to  regard  *  Le  E§ve  "  as  the  outcome 
of  any  transformation  of  Zola's  literary  views,  there  occurred 
about  this  time  a  change  in  his  personal  appearance  of  the 
reality  of  which  there  could  be  no  doubt.  One  evening,  in 
the  winter  of  1887-1888,  when  he  was  at  the  Th^tre  Libre,1 

1  His  play  "  Madeleine  "  (originally  called  "  La  Madeleine ")  which,  he 
had  vainly  offered  to  the  Gymnase  and  Vaudeville  theatres  in  1866,  and 


302    fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMEB 

he  found,  while  walking  down  a  passage,  that  his  corpulence, 
which  after  steadily  increasing  for  several  years  had  now 
become  extreme,  made  it  difficult  for  him  to  get  past  Eaf- 
faelli,  the  artist,  who  happened  to  be  standing  there.  "  It 's 
a  horrid  nuisance  to  have  such  a  corporation,"  said  Zola, 
apologising  to  Kaffaelli,  whom  he  had  involuntarily  squeezed. 
**  But  it 's  easily  got  rid  of,"  the  other  answered.  "  If  you 
wish  to  reduce  your  figure,  you  will  merely  have  to  cease 
drinking  while  you  eat."  And  forthwith  he  gave  some  par- 
ticulars concerning  a  form  of  treatment,1  which  he  himself 
had  followed,  for  ridding  oneself  of  obesity.  On  the  follow- 
ing morning  Zola  told  his  wife  of  it,  but  she  laughed  at  him, 
declaring  there  was  no  sense  in  such  a  story.  Besides,  she 
said,  he  would  never  be  able  to  abstain  from  drinking  while  he 
ate.  Zola  contended  the  contrary,  and  at  last  both  husband 
«nd  wife  became  impatient,  and  without  exactly  quarrelling, 
had,  «u»  the  saying  goes,  "a  few  words  together."  But  at 
last  the  morning  rol  and  coffee,  to  which  the  first  breakfast 
is  usually  limited  in  Paris,  was  served,  and  Zola  thereupon 
took  up  his  roll  and  began  to  eat.  As  for  the  coffee,  in 
spite  of  all  his  wife's  expostulations,  he  would  not  touch  it ; 
and  for  three  months  he  persevered  with  this  new  treatment, 
drinking  very  sparingly  and  never  at  meals.  Moreover,  after 
a  week  or  two  he  eschewed  bread  altogether.  One  Sunday 
in  March  (1888)  when  he  arrived  at  M.  Charpentier's  house 
to  dine  there,  Goncourt,  who  was  present,  could  scarcely 
recognise  him.  He  had  lost  over  thirty  pounds  in  weight, 

which  he  had  afterwards  turned  into  a  novel,  "Madeleine  Ferat"  (see  antet 
pp.  99  and  107)  was  produced  with  indifferent  success  at  the  Theatre  Libre 
in  1889  —  first  performance,  May  2. 

1  The  writer  believes  it  is  called  the  Schveninger  cure. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    303 

and  Ms  face,  so  round  and  flabby  of  recent  years,  once  more 
recalled  the  portrait  which  Manet  had  painted  of  him  in,  his 
early  manhood.  After  marvelling  at  this  great  change  Gon- 
court  lost  sight  of  Zola  for  another  eight  months  or  so,  and 
when  he  met  him  again  in  November  he  did  not  recognise 
him  at  all  Zola  no  longer  resembled  even  the  Manet  por- 
trait ;  he  was  quite  emaciated,  his  cheekbones  projected,  and 
under  his  hair,  which  he  now  wore  rather  long  and  brushed 
back,  his  forehead  showed  forth  like  a  lofty  tower.  The 
same  energy  and  determination  which  he  brought  to  bear  in 
his  literary  undertakings  had  enabled  him  to  effect  this  great 
change.  He  was  then  about  eight  and  forty,  and  although, 
in  later  years,  he  broadened  and  put  on  additional  fiesh,  he 
never  again  became  obese.  After  a  time  he  allowed  himself 
a  draught  of  water  at  his  meals,  but  for  the  remainder  of  his 
life  he  ate  very  little  bread. 

It  was  in  1888  (April  21)  that  "  Germinal,"  the  play  based 
on  his  novel,  was  at  last  produced  at  the  Th^tre  du  Ch§,telet 
in  Paris.  There  was  then  a  lull  in  the  political  unrest  of 
France ;  nevertheless  the  Censorship  had  insisted  on  multi- 
tudinous alterations  in  the  piece,  for  fear  lest  "revolutionary 
passions  "  should  be  aroused.  To  all  the  changes  and  sup- 
pressions suggested  by  timorous  politicians  one  may  largely 
attribute  the  failure  of  the  play.  The  expenses  were  one 
hundred  and  twenty  pounds l  a  night,  and  at  the  fifth  per- 
formance the  receipts  had  fallen  to  one  hundred  and  twelve 
pounds.  Thus  a  change  of  programme  soon  became  im- 
perative. Zola  naturally  was  vexed.  "It  is  largely  the 
fault  of  the  newspapers,"  said  he  to  Edmond  de  Goncourt; 
« they  din  into  their  readers'  ears  that  only  amusing  plays 

i  About  $600. 


304  £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

are  worth  seeing.  But  the  misfortune  is  that  on  account 
of  this  piece  I  have  had  to  put  my  novel  *Le  K$ve*  on 
one  side  and  have  thus  lost  time." 

''La  B6ve*  appeared  in  volume  form  in  the  autumn  of 
1888,1  and  subsequently,  in  conjunction  with  M.  Louis 
Gallet,  Zola  drew  from  his  story  a  libretto  for  his  friend 
M.  Alfred  Bruneau,  the  composer,  from  whom  the  much- 
discussed  opera  "  Le  K$ve  "  came  three  years  later.2  Mean- 
time Zola  had  written  his  novel,  "La  Bdte  Humaine," 
which  was  suggested  in  part,  undoubtedly,  by  "Jack  the 
Ripper"  and  the  theory  of  "homicidal  mania/*  and  in  part 
by  the  mysterious  death  of  a  certain  French  prefect,  named 
Barreme,  who  had  been  found  assassinated  in  a  railway 
carriage,  We  know  that  Zola  had  contemplated  a  book  on 
the  railway  world  for  several  years,  but  had  been  at  a  loss 
how  to  utilize  such  a  subject  in  fiction.  The  Barr&me  affair 
extricated  him  from  his  difficulty,  and  was  clearly  indicated 
as  one  of  Ms  sources  of  inspiration  in  the  "  puff  preliminary  " 
which  **  La  Vie  Populaire  w  printed  before  beginning  to  pub- 
lish the  story  in  November,  1889 :  "  The  principal  episode 
of  *  La  Bfite  Humaine/  "  said  this  announcement,  "  is  a  mur- 
der in  a  railway  train;  and  there  are  so  many  points  of 
similarity  between  the  terrible  scene  depicted  by  Zola  and 
the  mysterious  death  of  Prefect  Barreme,  that  one  may  well 
inquire  if  the  novelist,  with  an  intuition  superior  to  that 

1  *'IiC  KSre,"  Paris,  Charpentier,  1893,  18mo,  310  pages.  Some  copies 
on  Dutch,  India,  and  Japanese  papers.  Eighty-eighth,  thousand  in  1893  ;  one 
hundred  and  sixteenth  thousand  in  1903.  Illustrated  edition :  Flammarion, 
1888,  4to ;  illustrations  "by  Carlos  Schwob  and  Me*tiyet ;  one  hundred  and 
fifty  copies  on  Dutch  paper.  Was  sold  in  parts  at  10  centimes.  Jeanniot 
had  illustrated  the  story  in  **La  Revue  Illustre'e,"  which  paid  Zola  one 
thousand  pounds  for  the  serial  rights. 

3  First  performed  at  the  Ope*ra  Comique,  June  18,  1891. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  305 

of  the  police,  has  not  supplied  the  most  probable  explanation 
of  that  dark  affair.** 

In  a  letter  addressed  to  M.  Charpentier  in  August,  1889, 
while  he  was  writing  '*  La  B&te  Humaine,"  at  M&ian,  Zola 
said: 

**  I  am  working  on  my  novel  passionately  and  shall  certainly 
have  finished  it  by  December  1.  ...  I  hope  to  take  Fasquelle l 
the  first  seven  chapters  on  September  15,  in  order  that  they  may 
bo  immediately  set  in  type.  ...  I  have  a  desperate  desire  to 
finish  my  Eougon-Macquart  series  as  soon  as  possible.  I  should 
like  to  be  rid  of  it  in  January,  '92.  This  may  be  managed,  but  I 
shall  have  to  work  very  hard,  I  am  fortunately  in  a  good  condi- 
tion for  work,  I  enjoy  the  most  perfect  health,  and  feel  again 
as  I  did  when  I  was  twenty.3  .  .  .  "We  shall  return  to  Paris  on 
September  10,  and  settle  quietly  in  our  new  quarters.8  That 
will  take  us  quite  six  weeks,  and  we  should  like  to  be  settled 
before  the  cold  weather  comes.  There  is  a  great  deal  to  be  done, 
but  wo  shall  do  it  leisurely,  even  if  we  have  to  postpone  furnish- 
ing the  place  completely  until  later.  In  December  we  shall 
return  to  Me*dan  to  kill  the  pig,  and,  if  it  suits  you,  you  shall 
come  with  us.*  The  weather  here  is  horrible.  ...  I  hope  you 
will  have  some  sunshine  as  you  have  gone  yonder  [to  the  Riviera] 
in  search  of  it.  ...  Ah !  my  friend  if  I  were  only  thirty,  you 
should  see  what  I  would  do !  I  would  stagger  the  world  1 " 

It  was  in  the  spring  of  1890  that  *  La  B§te  Humaine M 
appeared  in  volume  form;  and  to  some  readers  it  might 
seem  that  Zola  showed  great  boldness  in  coming  forward 

1  M.  Eugene  Fasquelle  had  now  acquired  an  interest  in  M.  Gharpentier's 
publishing  business,  which  he  ultimately  purchased. 

2  This  was  the  result  of  having  rid  himself  of  his  obesity. 

8  The  allusion  is  to  the  house  in  the  Hue  do  Bruxelles  (21  &&),  which 
Zola  made  his  Paris  home  until  his  death. 

*  In  his  later  years  Zola  kept  Christmas  and  Few  Year's  Day  at  M6dan, 
and  then  usually  had  a  house-party  there. 

20 


306    fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEB 

as  a  candidate  for  the  French  Academy  at  the  very  time 
of  issuing  such  a  work,1  one  of  his  most  audacious.  That 
however,  would  be  in  some  degree  an  error,  as  we  propose 
to  Bhow. 

A  great  deal  has  heen  written  on  the  subject  of  the 
Academy  and  the  failure  of  eminent  men  to  secure  admis- 
sion to  its  ranks.  Various  considerations  have  influenced 
it  at  different  times,  but  it  has  generally  shown  a  marked 
dislike  for  innovators,  men  of  independent  character,  and 
pushing  proclivities.  To  have  presented  oneself  for  election, 
even  repeatedly,  and  to  have  failed  to  find  acceptance,  can 
be  counted  no  dishonour.  Victor  Hugo  came  forward  four 
times  in  succession,  but  only  on  the  fourth  did  he  secure 
the  necessary  number  of  votes.  In  the  old  days,  to  quote 
only  a  few  instances,  the  doors  of  the  Academy  were  shut 
to  great  men  like  Descartes  and  Moli^re,  and  even  to 
men  of  high  standing,  like  La  Eochefoucauld,  the  moralist. 
In  our  days  Balzac  was  several  times  an  unsuccessful  can- 
didate ;  while  if  Dumas  Jils  found  favour  with  the  Immortals 
his  father  was  always  rigidly  excluded  from  their  midst. 
And  apropos  of  the  authors  of  "Eug&nie  Grandet"  and 
"  Los  Trois  Mousquetaires,"  as  of  Zola  also,  one  may  point 
out  that  it  is  only  of  recent  years  that  novelists  have 
figured,  in  any  number,  among  the  Academicians.  Even 
at  this  time  (1903)  one  can  find  merely  four  men  who 
are  essentially  novelists  among  the  forty. 

It  has  been  mentioned  above  that  the  Academy  has 
shown  no  liking  for  innovators  and  men  of  independent  and 

1  M  La  B§te  Humaine,"  Paris,  Charpentiet,  1890,  18mo,  419  pages.  Some 
copies  on  Dutch,  India,  and  Japanese  papers.  Eighty-eighth  thousand  in 
1893 ;  ninety-ninth  thousand  in  1903. 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  307 

self-assertive  character;  now  Zola  was  all  that,  and  from 
the  outset,  therefore,  difficulties  beset  him.  His  views  on 
matters  of  religion  were  not  at  first  the  great  obstacle  which 
they  subsequently  became.  There  had  always  been  a  Vol- 
tairean  element  in  the  Academy ;  and  Littrd  and  Renan  had 
eventually  secured  election  in  spite  of  all  the  bitter  hostility 
of  Monseigneur  Bupanloup,  the  (t  Eagle  of  Orleans.**  True 
it  is  that  Dupanloup  had  failed  to  keep  them  out  by  the 
very  violence  of  his  opposition,  and  since  1882  the  Church 
had  been  represented  in  the  Academy  by  a  prelate  of  a 
different  character,  an  unctuous  man,  Cardinal  Perraud, 
who  did  not  bluster  like  Dupanloup  but  exerted  his  influ- 
ence in  a  stealthy  way,  after  the  fashion  usually  ascribed 
to  the  Jesuits.  To  him  and  his  gradually  acquired  ascend- 
ancy, Zola's  final  defeat  in  the  struggle  for  Academical 
honours  was  largely  due.  In  that  respect  "Lourdes"  and 
"Rome"  sealed  his  fate,  as  he  himself  freely  acknow- 
ledged to  his  friends.  But  when  he  first  came  forward  as 
a  candidate  he  had  written  nothing  irretrievable  from  the 
Catholic  standpoint.  Though  he  had  "The  Conquest  of 
Plassans"  and  "Abb4  Mouret's  Transgression'*  behind  him, 
the  former  dealt  only  with  the  political  and  worldly  in- 
trigues of  a  priest,  and  the  latter,  if  it  questioned  the  vow 
of  perpetual  chastity,  at  least  ended  with  the  repentance 
and  submission  of  the  offender.  Besides,  "The  Dream/' 
with  all  its  mysticism  and  religiosity,  was  of  a  nature  to 
propitiate  rather  than  offend  the  clericals. 

On  the  other  hand,  however,  Zola's  political  and  social 
views  gave  great  offence  to  conservatives  generally,  and  in 
the  eighties  the  Dukes  de  Broglie  and  d'Audiffret-Pasquier 
were  very  powerful  in  the  Academy,  They  and  those  who 


308     SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMKR 

followed  them  regarded  the  author  of  "Les  Eougon-Mac- 
quart"  as  a  revolutionist.  His  turbulence  and  self-asser- 
tiveness  alarmed  them,  and  it  is  indeed  quite  likely  that 
if  he  had  been  elected  he  would  have  disturbed  their  qui- 
etude in  many  ways  and  possibly  have  seized  the  lion's 
share  in  the  control  of  the  Academy's  labours.  There  was 
also,  of  course,  the  question  of  the  outspokenness  of  Nat- 
uralism, which  weighed  considerably  with  one  section  of 
the  Academy;1  though  it  was  never  —  as  some  English 
writers  have  assumed  it  to  be  —  the  chief  cause  of  Zola's 
failure.  Their  error  sprang  from  their  ignorance  of  the 
French  character.  If  among  those  who  voted  against  Zola 
there  were  half  a  dozen  Academicians  who  firmly  objected 
to  his  bluntness  of  expression,  the  majority  was  not  dis- 
posed to  magnify  molehills  into  mountains,  particularly  as 
the  Rabelaisian  sense  is  common  to  many  Frenchmen*  But 
there  were  a  score  of  Academicians  who  hated  what  they 
called  the  "revolutionary  spirit"  of  Zola's  writings,  and 
who  feared,  too,  that  this  pushing,  energetic  man  who  had 
been  called  "the  Shark/'  as  he  himself  admitted  with  a 
chuckle,  might  swallow  them  up  if  he  became  a  member 
of  their  body.  At  all  events  such  is  the  explanation 
given  privately  to  the  writer  by  some  who  supported 
Zola's  earlier  candidatures,  and  they  ought  to  know  the 
truth.  Later,  as  already  indicated,  the  religious  question 
arose,  and  the  opposition  to  Zola  then  became  the  more 
determined  owing  to  the  influence  which  Cardinal  Perraud 

1  It  is  notorious  that  Taine,  who  led  a  section  of  the  Academicians,  that 
of  the  "  university  men,"  opposed  Zola  because  he  used  vulgar  and  even  slang 
words  in  some  of  his  writings.  Taine,  moreover,  was  in  full  sympathy  with 
the  aristocratic  element  in  the  Academy  with  respect  to  its  endeavours  to  make 
the  institution  a  kind  of  deadly-lively  social  cluh. 


6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      309 

and  his  first  lieutenant,  the  Count  de  Jfun,  exerted  at  every 
opportunity. 

Zola's  earliest  Academical  patrons  were  his  friends,  Fran- 
§ois  Coppfe  and  Ludovie  Hal^vy.  Dumas  fl&  likewise 
supported  him,  as  mentioned  in  a  previous  chapter.  So 
did  Jules  Claretie,  to  the  very  end.  Over  a  term  of  years 
he  presented  himself  nearly  a  score  of  times,  and  on  each 
occasion  the  votes  cast  for  him  dwindled,  until  at  last 
only  Claretie's  was  left.  His  other  friends  shrewdly  re- 
garded the  struggle  as  hopeless.  Some  people  have  thought 
that  if  Zola  had  lived  a  few  years  longer  he  might  have 
proved  successful,  hut  the  writer  does  not  share  that  view. 
For  the  last  thirty  years  —  to  go  back  no  farther  —  the 
Academy  has  been  essentially  conservative  in  its  political 
and  social  views.  To  preserve  a  kind  of  reputation  for 
fairness  it  has  elected,  now  and  again,  a  man  of  more  or 
less  advanced  opinions;  but  the  majority  has  always  re- 
mained much  the  same,  the  "  liberal "  members  never  being 
more  than  ten  or  twelve  in  number.  On  consulting  the 
list  for  1903  one  can  only  find  nine  who  by  some  possi- 
bility might  have  combined  together  to  vote  for  a  man 
like  Zola.  On  the  other  hand,  it  is  not  unlikely  that  time 
will  bring  certain  revenges.  Comparatively  few  years  ago 
the  Academy,  which  had  repeatedly  closed  its  doors  to  the 
author  of  "La  Com^die  Humaine,"  selected  the  "Eulogy 
of  Honor6  de  Balzac "  as  the  subject  of  its  "  Prize  for 
Eloquence  "  ;  and  at  some  future  date  the  "  Eulogy  of  fimile 
Zola  "  may  be  similarly  chosen. 

Zola  was  in  nowise  cast  down  when,  at  his  first  at- 
tempt to  gain  admittance  (1890),  M.  Charles  de  Freycinet, 
a  clever  man,  who  did  some  good  work  during  the  war  of 


310    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

1870,  but  who  afterwards  degenerated  into  one  of  the  hack 
politicians  of  the  Third  Eepublic,  was  chosen  in  preference 
to  himself.1  He  had  anticipated  it,  but  he  was  resolved 
to  offer  himself  for  election  at  each  fresh  opportunity.  "  I 
am.  making  history,  literary  history/1  he  would  say  after 
one  and  another  rebuff.  "So  much  the  worse  for  the 
Academy!  Our  grandnephews  will  learn  that  it  refused 
me  admittance  twenty  or  thirty  times  in  succession*" 

After  "  La  BSte  Humaine  "  in  the  summer  of  1890,  Zola 
turned  to  "L* Argent/'  a  tale  of  the  Paris  financial  world, 
inspired  chiefly  by  the  crash  of  the  Union  G^ndrale  Bank 
some  years  before.  Of  all  the  subjects  he  had  hitherto 
approached  he  found  this  the  most  difficult  to  treat.  He 
had  no  financiers  among  his  friends,  he  had  never  dabbled 
in  Bourse  gambling,  and  was  at  a  loss  for  information  re- 
specting much  of  the  inner  working  of  what  the  French  call 
la  "kawte  bangm.  However,  while  frequenting  the  Bourse 
almost  daily  for  a  whole  month,  he  obtained  enlightenment 
from  some  gentlemen  of  the  stock-broking  world,  to  whom 
he  was  introduced.  He  also  studied  the  detailed  reports  of 
the  great  swindles  of  previous  years,  going  back  as  far  as 
the  time  of  the  notorious  Mir£s,  which  was,  of  course,  le- 
gitimate, the  period  of  his  story  being  that  of  the  Second 
Empire.  One  may  add  that  in  writing  his  book  he  did 
not  spare  some  of  the  Jew  financiers  of  Paris.  "  I/ Argent " 
appeared  serially  in  the  "  Gil  Bias,"  which  paid  twelve  hun- 
dred pounds  for  the  privilege,  and  was  issued  as  a  volume 
in  1891.2  Goncourt  mentions  that  while  Zola  was  writing 

1  At  subsequent  elections  lie  was  defeated  by  Pierre  Loti,  Henri  de  Bor- 
nier,  Thureau-Dangin,  Ferdinand  Branetiere,  etc. 

2  UL*  Argent,"  Charpentier,  1891,  18mo,  451  pages.     Some  copies  on 
Dutch,  India,  and  Japanese  papers ;  eighty-third  thousand  in  1893;  eighty- 
ninth  thousand  in  1903. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      311 

the  work  he  again  expressed  his  anxiety  to  finish  his  series. 
There  were  to  be  only  two  more  volumes,  one  on  the  Franco- 
German  war  of  1870,  and  the  other,  in  which  he  then  took 
most  interest,  a  general  summing-up  of  his  **  family  history >f 
by  a  scientific  man,  Dr.  Pascal  Eougon,  whom  he  thought 
of  marrying  to  some  retrograde,  bigoted  woman  who  would 
destroy  successively  everything  he  wrote.  And  Zola  sighed 
that  he  wished  he  could  obtain  permission  to  inspect  the 
papers  of  Claude  Bernard,  on  whose  published  writings  he 
had  reared,  as  will  be  remembered,  Ms  theory  of  le  roman 
experimental.  As  for  his  projected  "  war  "  book,  he  did  not 
think  he  could  make  much  of  a  novel  of  it  His  idea  at 
that  moment  was  to  show  some  character  " promenading** 
through  the  siege  of  Paris  and  the  Commune.1 

When,  however,  he  took  the  subject  in  hand  —  spending 
the  greater  part  of  1891  in  collecting  and  classifying  mate- 
rials 2  —  his  views  changed,  and  he  decided  rightly  to  make 
the  battle  of  Sedan  the  keystone  of  the  work.  The  expres- 
sion "la  d£b&cle"  occurs  already  in  Alexis's  "Notes  d'un 
Ami,"  published  in  1882,  but  at  a  later  stage  Zola  thought 
of  calling  his  book  "  La  Guerre  "  ("  War  *)„  It  is  just  possi- 
ble that  this  was  because  a  couple  of  French  novels  bearing 
the  title  of  "La  Debacle"  were  in  existence  already.3 
However,  French  authors  are  much  less  punctilious  than 

1  "Journal  des  Goncourt,1'  Vol.  VIII,  p.  141. 

2  Towards  the  close  of  the  summer  he  allowed  himself  a  holiday  and  repaired 
to  the  Pyrenees  with  his  wife.     It  was  then  (September)  that  he  first  visited 
Lourdes  and  was  struck  by  the  sight  of  the  pilgrimages.    Ifc  immediately 
occurred  to  him  that  they  would  supply  a  good  subject  for  a  book,  and  to  study 
them  more  closely  he  returned  to  Lourdes  in  the  summer  of  1892. 

*  The  writer  must  admit  that  he  has  seen  neither,  but  he  has  found  one 
catalogued  under  the  names  of  M.  Claretie,  the  other  under  that  of  M.  Ca- 
mille  Etievant.  Both  had  appeared  before  1885.  It  is  of  course  possible  that 
Zola  had  never  heard  of  them. 


312  £MILE  ZOLA,  HOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

English  ones  with  respect  to  titles,  and  it  would  be  easy  to 
mention  several  instances  in  which  the  same  has  been  used 
— by  different  writers  —  three  or  four  times  over.  In  any 
case,  Zola  reverted  to  the  title  of  "La  D£b£cle"  as  being 
the  most  appropriate  to  his  series,  signifying  as  it  did  the 
"  smash-up w  of  that  imperial  regime  whose  society  he  had 
been  describing  so  long ;  and  though  charges  of  plagiarism 
were  so  often  brought  against  him,  it  would  not  appear  that 
any  arose  on  this  occasion. 

Zola  had  found  "  L* Argent "  a  difficult  subject,  and  now 
the  preparation  of  "  La  D^bUcle "  proved  a  herculean  task 
for  him.  He  had  never  witnessed  an  engagement  in  the 
field ;  military  matters  were  almost  as  foreign  to  him  as  fi- 
nancial ones.  He  had  dealt  with  them  in  a  few  short  stories 
only,  such  as  "  Le  Capitaine  Burle  "  and  "  Les  Quatre  Jour- 
n4es  de  Jean  Gourdon."  But  he  now  visited  all  the  battle- 
fields which  were  to  figure  in  his  narrative,  he  followed  the 
line  of  march  of  the  Seventh  Army  Corps,  whose  suffer- 
ings he  intended  to  describe,  he  studied  everything  that  had 
been  printed  and  published  in  France  on  his  subject,  and  he 
was  fortunate  enough  to  secure  a  large  number  of  letters 
and  manuscripts  in  which  eye-witnesses  recounted  one  and 
another  episode  of  the  battle  of  Sedan.  Some  of  those  com- 
munications emanated  from  "  privates,"  who  set  down  their 
own  curious  personal  experiences  and  often  naive  impres- 
sions ;  and  for  Zola's  purpose  these  were  even  more  valuable 
than  the  reports  of  generals  and  other  officers.  What  he 
made  of  his  subject  the  world  knows ;  of  all  the  books  he 
ever  wrote  "  La  Dftftele  "  has  circulated  the  most  widely. 

One  notable  effect  of  that  great  epic  on  war  was  to  deter- 
mine some  revulsion  of  feeling  in  England  with  respect  to 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     313 

the  novelist    Directly  the  liquidation  of  Vizetelly  &  Co/a 

business  had  been  decided  on,  Ernest  Vizetelly  hail  found 
his  occupation  gone,  for  there  were  no  new  books  to  be  in- 
itiated or  seen  through  the  press,  and  even  most  of  those 
already  in  hand  were  abandoned,  at  least  for  the  time. 
Vizetelly  was  therefore  reduced  to  very  great  straits.  At  a 
moment's  notice,  so  to  say,  he  had  to  seek  a  living  elsewhere. 
He  was  a  journalist  by  profession,  but  for  two  or  three 
years  he  had  virtually  severed  his  connection  with  news- 
papers. Moreover,  his  press  work  had  almost  invariably 
been  that  of  a  foreign  correspondent,  and  his  experience  of 
such  duties,  even  with  some  knowledge  of  European  lan- 
guages and  politics  thrown  in,  did  not  give  him  much 
chance  of  securing  work  in  London.  Again,  one  editor 
under  whom  he  had  written  for  eleven  years  had  retired ; 
another  was  dead.  He  knocked  at  a  few  editorial  doors  and 
encountered  an  unpromising  reception.  There  was  a  de- 
cided prejudice  against  anybody  bearing  his  name.  After 
the  release  of  his  father  from  Holloway  he  helped  him  in  a 
few  little  ventures,  but  was  unable  to  secure  any  regular  re- 
munerative work.  Many  young  men  with  only  themselves 
to  think  of  often  find  it  hard  to  begin  life ;  it  is  harder  still 
to  begin  it  afresh  when  one  is  seven  and  thirty  and  has 
given  hostages  to  fortune.  Vizetelly  was  married,  had  two 
children,  and  was  expecting  the  advent  of  another  child. 
Robert  Buchanan,  whom  he  often  saw  in  connection  with  his 
father's  troubles,  inquired  about  his  own  private  circum- 
stances, and  on  learning  the  position  generously  helped  him. 
"  As  you  know,"  said  Buchanan, "  there  are  certain  people 
who  taunt  me  in  the  papers  because  I  draw  a  Civil  List 
pension  and  yet  make  a  considerable  income  by  my  pen. 


314    tMJLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Well,  the  truth  is,  Vketelly,  that  the  pension  often  proves 
very  useful  It  will  help  me  to  assist  you,  as  it  has  helped 
me  to  assist  a  good  many  others/' 

When  the  haby  was  born  and  Vketelly's  wife  was  on  foot 
again, "  they  took  their  courage  in  both  hands,"  as  the  French 
say,  and  moved  to  a  neighbourhood  where  living  was  cheap. 
And  though  their  street  was  *  slummy,"  and  from  their  front 
windows  ragged  urchins  were  constantly  to  be  seen  fetching 
penn'orths  of  porter  in  pewter  cans,  and  often  sampling 
the  liquor  on  their  way  home,  there  lay  behind  the  little 
house  they  rented  a  large  cabbage  field,  beyond  which  were 
the  grounds  of  Carnwath  House  and  all  the  trees  of  Hurl* 
ingham.  Vizetelly  chose  for  his  work  a  first-floor  room, 
whence  one  looked  out  on  the  cabbage  patch  and  the  trees, 
and  tried  to  devise  some  means  of  earning  a  living.  For  a 
while  the  sale  of  his  books  and  the  pawnshop  helped  him, 
and  he  gradually  contrived  to  dispose  of  a  few  articles  to 
newspapers.  But  the  one  idea  that  haunted  him  was  to 
bring  Zola  to  the  front  again  in  England.  It  was  neither 
friendship  for  Zola  nor  an  overpowering  admiration  for  his 
writings  that  inspired  that  idea.  Vizetelly  thought  chiefly 
of  the  ruin  of  his  family  and  the  odium  cast  on  it  by  all 
that  had  happened.  At  the  same  time  he  knew  that  Zola 
as  well  as  his  father  had  been  cruelly  maligned  by  the 
Pecksniffs  and  those  who  had  abetted  them. 

Unfortunately  nothing  could  be  done  at  once.  The  next 
book  that  Zola  wrote  (after "Le  K§ve")  was  "La  B§te 
Humaine,"  and  such  was  the  state  of  public  opinion  that  it 
seemed  impossible  to  produce  even  a  bowdlerised  version  of 
that  work  in  England.  Vizetelly  felt  —  as  he  had  felt  with 
respect  to  the  earlier  translations  —  that  one  must  proceed 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEE  315 

cautiously,  that  the  ground  must  be  well  prepared  in 
advance  if  the  doctrine  of  outspokenness  were  ever  to  tri- 
umph. His  father  had  acted  too  audaciously,  too  precipi- 
tately, with  little  or  no  diplomacy.  And  diplomacy  was 
needed.  It  was  useless  to  run  against  a  wall  of  Cootes 
and  Clarkes,  an  outflanking  movement  must  be  tried. 

After  "La  B§te  Surname"  came  "L'Argent,"  and  that 
book  and  its  subject  did  not  seem  attractive  enough  to  pave 
the  way  for  a  genuine  revival  of  Zola  in  England.  So 
Vizetelly  again  had  to  wait.  It  was  a  dreary  time,  but  his 
wife  was  as  plucky  a  woman  as  lived,  and  between  them 
they  managed  to  keep  the  wolf  from  the  door.  At  last,  in 
the  summer  of  1891,  on  hearing  that  Zola  had  begun  a 
novel  on  the  Franco-German  war,  it  occurred  to  Vizetelly 
that  the  opportunity  for  which  he  had  been  waiting  since 
1889  might  be  at  hand.  There  were  great  possibilities  in 
the  subject  chosen  by  Zola,  and  it  was  one  which  had  much 
attraction  for  Vizetelly,  who  with  boyish  ambition  had  tried 
what  he  could  do  with  his  pen  and  his  pencil  amid  the 
fierce  struggle  which  was  now  to  be  Zola's  theme. 

Communications  ensued  between  them,  but  though  the 
novelist  speedily  assented  to  the  suggestions  made  to  him, 
Vizetelly  had  much  difficulty  in  finding  an  English  news- 
paper willing  to  publish  a  translation  of  "  La  D£b&cle  "  while 
the  original  was  appearing  in  "  La  Vie  Populaire."  "  Le 
Figaro,"  one  may  mention,  had  offered  Zola  a  very  large 
sum  for  the  privilege  of  serialising  that  work ;  but  he  had 
declined  the  proposal,  saying  that  it  would  be  absurd  to 
publish  his  narrative  of  the  battle  of  Sedan,  some  two 
hundred  pages  long,  in  short  daily  "snippets."  He  preferred 
to  take  the  twelve  hundred  pounds  offered  him  by  "La 


316    &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOKMER 

Vie  Populaire,"  which  appeared  weekly,  and  was  able  to 
allot  several  pages  of  each  number  to  his  work. 

Vizetelly  naturally  desired  to  issue  his  translation  in  an 
English  journal,  but  editors  feared  apparently  that  they 
might  soil  their  immaculate  hands  if  they  had  anything  to 
do  with  the  loathsome  Zola.    Thus  there  were  repulses  upon 
every  side,  until  Mr.  Kibblewhite,  of  the  "  Weekly  Times  and 
Echo,'*  rising  above  the  general  prejudice,  accepted  the  pro- 
posals made  to  him.    The  translation  as  inserted  in  the 
**  Weekly  Times ' '  was  anonymous,  for  Vizetelly  was   too 
shrewd  to  thrust  himself  forward  after  all  that  had  happened, 
However,  he  now  tried  to  find  a  firm  willing  to  publish 
"  The  Downfall/1  as  the  translation  was  called,  in  a  volume ; 
and  again,  in  this  respect  also,  he  encountered  several  rebuffs. 
Two  publishers  to  whom  proofs  were  sent  returned  the 
parcels  unopened ;  others,  who  were  visited,  curtly  declined 
to  negotiate;  one  made  a  low  offer,  so  low  as  to  give  the 
author  little  and  the  translator  virtually  nothing.    Thus  the 
book  went  begging.    Vizetelly  became  disheartened,  and  his 
wife  eventually  suggested  that  he  should  cease  his  efforts, 
since  they  only  consumed  time  in  which  he  might  have 
earned  a  little  money.     He  felt  she  was  right,  but  as  a  last 
attempt  he  sent  a  few  of  his  proofs,  with  a  letter,  to  Messrs. 
Chatto  and  Windus.     This  was  a   kind  of  forlorn   hope. 
Judging  by  the  firm's  catalogue,  there  was  apparently  little 
prospect  that  it  would  accept  anything  by  Zola.     But  Mr. 
Andrew  Chatto  and  his  partner,  Mr.  Percy  Spalding,  set 
prejudices  aside  and  took  the  trouble  to  look  at  what  was 
submitted  to  them.    They  agreed  to  publish  the  book,  and 
were  recompensed  for  their  enterprise  by  its  very  great 
success.    Such,  then,  was  the  origin  of  a  connection  which, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     317 

as  some  readers  may  know,  resulted  In  Messrs.  Cliatto  pub- 
lishing nearly  all  the  Zola  translations  and  "revisions" 
attempted  by  Ernest  Vize telly. 

In  the  case  of  a  new  work  by  a  foreign  author  of  established 
reputation,  it  is  usually  advisable  that  the  translation  should 
appear  at  the  same  time  as  the  original ;  but,  owing  to  cir- 
cumstances, the  success  of  "The  Downfall"  was  helped 
materially  by  the  earlier  issue  of  the  French  volume. 
Directly  the  latter  appeared  in  Paris1  Vizetelly  recom- 
mended it  to  a  few  former  war  correspondents ;  and  as  the 
praise  which  Archibald  Forbes  bestowed  upon  Zola's  work 
in  a  literary  journal  exercised  some  influence,  a  dozen  lauda- 
tory articles  soon  found  their  way  into  the  newspapers. 

Moreover  "  La  D6Mcle  "  created  an  extraordinary  sensation 
in  France,  Germany,  and  other  parts  of  Europe.  The  foreign 
correspondents  of  the  English  press  repeatedly  had  occasion 
to  refer  to  it,  thus  virtually  compelling  attention  to  the  book. 
In  Paris  Zola's  enemies  assailed  him  fiercely.  They  wanted 
to  know  what  he  himself  had  done  during  the  Franco- 
German  war.  The  Imperialists  accused  him  of  having 
slandered  Napoleon  III.  The  more  zealous  patriots  declared 
it  was  disgraceful  to  have  written  such  a  book,  which,  said 
they,  was  a  mere  speculation  on  the  country's  misfortunes. 
And  some  took  particular  offence  at  the  title  of  "  La  D£b&cle." 

*  "LaDe"b£cle,"  Paris,  Charpentier  and  Fasquelle,  1892,  ISrao,  620  pages ; 
one  hundred  and  seventy-sixth  thousand  in  1893  ;  two  hundred  and  seventh, 
thousand  in  1903.  Illustrated  edition:  Paris,  Flammarion,  n.  d.,  4to,  527 
pages  ;  illustrations  by  Jeanniot ;  ninety  copies  on  India,  Japanese,  and  Dutch 
papers.  The  Bavarian  Captain  Tanera  attacked  the  book  in  "  Le  Figaro," 
September  19,  1892,  and  his  communication  was  reprinted  by  Lemerre, 
8  pages,  8vo.  Zola's  answer  to  him,  **  Retour  de  Voyage,"  was  also  published 
by  Lemerre,  1892,  18mo,  21  pages  j  forty  copies  printed,  all  numbered,  those 
bearing  odd  numbers  being  on  Dutch  paper. 


318     ^MILE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Why  indeed  had  not  the  author  chosen  another?  Zola, 
mildly  astonished  by  this  question,  made  answer  that  it  was 
not  he  hut  the  Emperor  and  his  generals  who  had  lost  the 
battle  of  Sedan,  and  that  he  would  infinitely  have  preferred 
to  write  a  very  different  hook  if  the  military  men  had  only 
allowed  him  to  do  so. 

The  work  had  been  published  as  a  volume  in  June  (1892). 
and  in  August  Zola,  accompanied  by  his  wife,  betook  himself, 
to  Lourdes  to  witness  the  more  important  pilgrimages  there, 
a  glimpse  of  which  he  had  obtained  the  previous  autumn. 
From  Lourdes  he  made  his  way  to  Italy,  where  he  now  set 
foot  for  the  first  time*  On  this  occasion  he  would  seem  to 
have  gone  no  further  than  Genoa,  where  he  remained  a 
short  time,  and  where  some  attention  was  shown  him. 
Early  in  October  he  arrived  at  Monte  Carlo  on  his  way 
home  and  wrote  to  Yizetelly,  saying, "  I  am  about  to  return 
to  Paris  to  begin  my  next  book,  *  Dr.  Pascal/  It  will  be  a 
story  of  private  life  and  passion  in  the  style  of  '  Une  Page 
d'Amour'  and  <La  Joie  de  Vivre.'  Its  chief  interest  will 
lie  in  its  being  the  last  volume  of  the  *  Rougon-Macqnart ' 
series.  In  France  it  will  hardly  appear  serially  before 
February  next,  but  you  may  already  try  to  place  an  English 
translation  of  it  It  will  not  offend  the  modesty  of  your 
fellow-countrymen." 

The  translation  was  promptly  offered  to  the  "Weekly 
Times  "  and  accepted  by  it,  the  book  rights  being  reserved. 
Under  date  November  4,  Zola  confirmed  this  arrangement, 
and  writing  again,  ten  days  later,  he  said :  "  I  can  under- 
take to  say  that  the  story  will  contain  nothing  to  offend 
the  prudery  of  your  compatriots,  and,  besides,  I  give  you 
full  authority  to  modify  any  passages  which  may  seem  to 


IMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     319 

you  to  be  inquittants"  As  some  may  be  aware,  there  were 
certain  passages  of  that  nature ;  and  Yizetelly,  bent  on  pro- 
ceeding cautiously  and  diplomatically,  deleted  them, 

Zola  naturally  took  great  pleasure  in  writing  this  book 
for,  as  he  remarked  to  his  friend,  Mr.  Sherard,  it  gave  him 
an  opportunity  to  pass  his  entire  series  in  review  and 
defend  himself  against  many  of  the  accusations  brought 
against  him* 

"  It  is  not  a  book  to  stir  the  passions  of  the  multitude,"  he 
said ;  "  it  is  a  scientific  work,  the  logical  outcome  and  conclusion 
of  all  my  previous  volumes ;  and  at  the  same  time  it  is  my  speech 
for  the  defence  before  the  court  of  public  opinion.  ...  It  will  be 
a  sermon  on  atavism  and  will  set  forth  my  theory  that  when 
men  know  how  to  master  its  influence  they  will  be  masters  of 
their  own  destinies.  And  the  conclusion  will  be  the  philosophical 
one  which  I  have  sought  ever  since  I  first  took  pen  in  hand  to 
write  the  series ;  that  we  ought  to  have  faith  in  life  and  confidence 
in  Nature.  *  .  .  Yes,  that  despite  all  that  is  cruel  and  ugly  and 
incomprehensible  in  Nature,  despite  all  the  suffering  and  in- 
justice of  life,  all  that  is  bad  and  seems  irremediable  in  the 
world,  we  ought  to  preserve  confidence  in  Nature,  and  stake 
our  hopes  on  effort  and  work.  Further,  that,  though  we  may 
not  see  it,  we  are  surely  pushing  forward  towards  a  certain  end 
and  object ;  that  there  is  a  field  of  hope  in  Nature,  and  that  good 
will  come  out  of  all  that  is  bad,  that  justice  will  emerge  from  the 
slough  of  injustice,  that  a  day  of  beauty  will  dawn  after  a  night 
of  hideous  darkness,  and  that  the  result  of  all  our  efforts  and  our 
suffering  must  surely  be  one  that  will  reward  the  first  and  com- 
pensate us  for  the  other." l 

Zola  sold  the  first  French  serial  rights  in  "Le  Docteur 
Pascal "  to  a  periodical  called  "  La  Rdvue  hebdomadaire," 2 

1  Abbreviated  from  Sherard,  I,  c,,  p.  251  et  seq. 
3  It  paid  him  £1,400  =  about  $7,000. 


320     fiSHLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFGEMER 

In  which  the  story  appeared  from  March  till  June,  1893. 
With  the  volume,  issued  a  few  weeks  later,1  a  new  genea- 
logical tree  of  the  Eougon-Macquart  family  was  given, 
this  including  the  names  of  the  additional  members  created 
by  Zola's  fancy  since  his  first  inception  of  the  series. 

To  celebrate  its  completion  his  publishers  gave  a  dejeuner 
champltre  at  the  Chalet  restaurant  on  the  larger  of  the 
Grand  Lac  islands  in  the  Bois  de  Boulogne.  A  numerous 
company  of  literary  men  and  artists  assembled  there,  but 
the  proceedings  may  have  aroused  some  jealousy  among  a 
few  old  friends,  for  men  like  Daudet  and  Goncourt  were 
absent.  The  former,  who  had  long  since  renounced  the 
Academy  and  all  its  pomps,  did  not  approve  of  Zola's 
*'  perpetual  candidature  "  —  he  was,  by  the  way,  then  offer- 
ing himself  for  three  fauteuih  simultaneously  —  and  thus 
there  was  a  coldness  between  them.  Goncourt  also  was 
opposed  to  the  Academy,  and  meditated  the  establishment 
of  a  rival  one  of  his  own  "  for  novelists  only."  So  in  this 
case  again  there  was  some  coldness,  particularly  as  Zola 
felt  that  certain  references  to  himself  in  the  earlier  volumes 
of  the  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  then  lately  issued,  were 
not  quite  such  as  one  might  have  expected  from  a  bosom 
friend.  We  know,  however,  by  later  entries  in  the  "  Jour- 
nal," that  Zola  and  Goncourt  continued  to  meet  virtually 
until  the  latter's  death.  True  it  is  that  Goncourt  at  one 
time  meant  to  appoint  Zola  to  the  chief  position  in  his 
so-called  "Academy,"  and  that  he  afterwards  renounced 
that  intention.  But,  contrary  to  what  some  writers  have 

1  "Le  Doeteur  Pascal,"  Paris,  Charpentier  and  Fasquelle,  1893,  18rao, 
390  pages  ;  some  copies  on  special  papers  ;  eighty-eighth  thousand  in  1893, 
soon  after  publication ;  ninety-fourth  thousand  in  1903. 


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"    UAI  'A/l/7 


Facsimile  letter  fron   Zola  to  Vizetelly 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMEB     321 

asserted,  Zola  was  by  no  means  disappointed  at  being 
left  out  of  it.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  he  had  deliberately 
rendered  himself  ineligible  by  seeking  admittance  to  the 
real  Academy;  and,  besides,  from  the  outset  he  had 
put  very  little  faith  in  Goncourfs  scheme.  However,  his 
friendship  with  Goncourt  and  Daudet,  whatever  their  dif- 
ferences, subsisted  till  the  last.  Of  the  part  which  he  took 
when  Daudet  died  some  mention  will  be  made  hereafter. 

At  the  lunch  at  the  Chalet  des  lies  the  novelist's  health 
was  proposed  by  his  old  friend  and  publisher,  M.  Char- 
pentier,  and  after  the  toast  had  been  acknowledged,  M. 
Catulle  Mendfes,  who,  as  will  be  remembered,  had  gallantly 
assisted  Zola  when  the  columns  of  "La  Cloche "  and  "Le 
Bien  Public"  were  closed  to  "La  Cur<5e"  and  "L'Assom- 
inoir,"  spoke  of  the  old  quarrels  between  the  Naturalists 
and  the  Parnassians,  to  which,  latter  sect  he,  Mend&s,  had 
belonged.  And,  said  he,  though  he  still  looked  upon 
poetry  as  a  much  superior  art  to  prose,  he  was  anxious 
to  declare  publicly  that  he  regarded  Zola  as  one  of  the 
great  literary  glories  of  France.  This  was  very  pretty ; 
and  the  novelist,  not  to  be  left  behind  in.  a  matter  of  com- 
pliments, responded  by  referring  to  Mend&s  as  a  perfect 
artist  and  a  good  friend.  Finally  he  proposed  a  toast  to 
work,  his  old  hobby,  as  he  called  it,  the  only  one  in 
which  true  happiness  could  be  found.  For  some  inscrut- 
able reason  General  lung  — whose  researches  into  the 
Iron  Mask  mystery  may  be  remembered,  and  who  happened 
to  be  among  the  guests  on  this  occasion  —  thought  the 
moment  appropriate  to  re-echo  a  remark  which  had  run 
through  the  newspapers,  and  to  which  one  has  already 
referred.  "Monsieur  Zola,"  said  he,  "you  have  written 


21 


322     tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

*  The  Smash-up '  ('  La  D$b&cle '),  let  us  hope  that  you  will 
soon  write  *  Victory/  "  "  Ah,  general !"  replied  Zola,  rais- 
ing his  forefinger, "  that  is  your  business."  And  thereupon 
he  sat  down. 

The  value  of  books  is  not  to  be  estimated  by  their 
length  or  even  by  their  popularity.  Yet  it  may  not  be 
inappropriate  to  point  out  that  the  Rougon-Macquart  se- 
ries, which  Zola  had  now  completed,  was  really  a  colossal 
performance.  Besides  a  large  variety  of  other  work,  the 
novelist  had  written  the  twenty  volumes  of  that  series  in 
about  five  and  twenty  years,  introducing,  as  he  proceeded, 
no  fewer  than  twelve  hundred  characters  to  his  readers. 
The  twenty  volumes  represented  nine  thousand  pages  of 
print,  each  of  three  and  thirty  lines,  and,  assuming  an 
average  of  nine  words  per  line  and  making  allowance  for 
€€  blanks/' — by  no  means  numerous  in  Zola's  works, — one 
may  say  that  they  contained  quite  two  million  five  hun- 
dred thousand  words.  Passing  to  another  matter,  one  finds 
that  at  the  time  of  the  appearance  of  "Le  Docteur  Pascal" 
there  had  been  sold  over  half  a  million  copies  of  the  ordi- 
nary Charpentier  edition  of  the  series.  The  popular  illus- 
trated editions  of  several  of  the  stories,  first  sold  in  what 
one  may  call  "penny  parts,"  had  also  circulated  very  widely, 
at  least  to  the  extent  of  a  quarter  of  a  million  copies; 
and  further  there  had  been  some  editions  de  luxe,  copies 
on  special  papers,  and  so  forth.  Moreover,  there  were  five 
novels  written  before  the  Rougon-Macquart  series  was 
begun,  with  four  volumes  of  short  stories  and  seven  vol- 
umes of  essays  and  other  papers,  issued  at  various  times; 
and  one  may  therefore  assume  that  between  eight  and 
nine  hundred  thousand  copies  of  Zola's  books  had  been 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    323 

sold  at  the  period  we  now  deal  with.  And  of  course 
thousands  and  thousands  of  readers  had  been  reached  by 
serial  publication.  Of  the  circulation  of  the  many  trans- 
lations it  is  impossible  to  give  even  an  idea,  but  some  of 
the  English  and  American  volumes  had  sold  by  tens  of 
thousands,  and  there  were  versions  of  many  of  Zola's  writ- 
ings in  German,  Italian,  Kussian,  Dutch,  Hungarian,  and 
other  languages.  But  books,  as  we  know,  by  no  means 
represented  the  whole  of  Zola's  work ;  there  were  also  many 
scores,  if  not  hundreds,  of  ephemeral  uncollected  newspaper 
articles  to  be  added  to  them,  as  well  as  several  plays,  so 
that  his  output  stood  at  quite  five  million  words.  It  was 
evident  then  that  he  practised  what  he  preached,  —  that 
gospel  of  work,  which  others,  such  as  Tolstoi,  the  prophet  of 
resignation,  occasionally  derided  but  which  he  himself  found 
all-sustaining. 

He  took  it  as  a  part  of  his  text  when  speaking  at  a 
gathering  of  the  Paris  Students'  Association,  over  which 
he  presided  that  year,  1893,1  for  though  the  Academy  still 
refused  him  admittance,  some  recognition  of  his  labours 
was  coming  from  other  quarters.  On  the  occasion  of  the 
National  F@te,  following  the  completion  of  his  great  series, 
he  was  raised  from  the  rank  of  chevalier  to  that  of  officer 
of  the  Legion  of  Honour ;  and  for  some  years  in  succession, 
a  very  rare  occurrence,  he  was  chosen  as  President  de  la 
Soci£t4  des  Gens  de  Lettres.  It  was  this  circumstance 
that  caused  the  English  Institute  of  Journalists  to  invite 

1  A  translation  of  the  address  in  question  (made  by  the  present  writer)  ap- 
peared in  "The  New  Keview,"  No.  50,  July,  1893,  under  the  title  of  "Life 
and  Labour."  Besides  expounding  the  gospel  of  work,  Zola  answered  the 
writers  of  Brunetiere's  coterie  who  had  started  the  nonsensical  cry  of  the 
"  bankruptcy  of  Science." 


324     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

him  and  other  representative  French  writers  to  attend  one 
of  its  congresses  in  London.  Zola's  connection  with.  Ernest 
Vizetelly  had  now  become  a  close  one.  A  translation  of 
wLe  Docteur  Pascal  *  had  followed  that  of  "La  Debacle," 
and  arrangements  had  been  made  for  an  English  version 
of  a  previous  work,  "L'Argent,"  Zola  indorsing  all  Vke- 
telly's  proposals  in  a  letter  in  which  he  said:  "My  dear 
confrere,  I  leave  translation  matters  entirely  to  you,  and 
it  is  sufficient  you  should  tell  me  that  an  arrangement  is 
good  for  me  to  accept  it  I  know  you  to  be  devoted  to 
my  interests,  and  you  are  well  placed  to  decide  every- 
thing,"1 Under  these  circumstances,  early  in  August 
1893,  soon  after  receiving  the  invitation  of  the  Institute 
of  Jotirnalists,  Zola  communicated  with  Vizetelly  and  asked 
him  for  certain  information.  "I  should  like  to  know,"  he 
wrote,  "what  will  be  the  importance  of  this  congress,  and 
whether  it  will  offer  much  interest  You  know  my  posi- 
tion in  London;  my  work  is  still  very  much  questioned 
there,  almost  denied.  It  certainly  seems  to  me  that  my 
presence,  and  the  words  I  might  speak,  might  efface  much 
of  the  misunderstanding,  and  that  it  would  be  politic  to 
accept,  in  order  to  influence  opinion.  But  what  is  your 
view?  Eeply  to  me  at  once  at  M&lan." 

Vizetelly,  in  his  reply,  reviewed  the  situation  such  as  it 
had  become  since  the  "  The  Downfall "  which  had  conduced 
to  a  movement  in  Zola's  favour.  The  English  critics,  he 
said,  still  made  all  sorts  of  reserves,  asserting,  for  instance, 
that  a  new  Zola  had  come  into  being  and  one  of  them  even 

1  The  writer  holds  several  letters  written  to  him  by  Zola  at  various  times, 
expressing  similar  reliance  on  his  judgment  To  print  them  all  would  be  to 
exaggerate  their  importance,  The  above  will  suffice  as  a  specimen.. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEB    325 

claiming  that  there  were  three  Zolas,  the  author  of  "La 
Terre,"  the  author  of  «  Le  B&ve,"  and  the  author  of  "  La  D6- 
Mcle  " ;  for  they  were  still  so  far  from  the  truth,  so  unable 
to  grasp  the  significance  of  the  Bougon-Macquart  series  as  a 
whole,  that  they  could  only  explain  the  latter  works  by  pic- 
turing some  wonderful  change  in  the  novelist.  Had  they 
looked  into  the  matter  more  closely  they  would  have  found 
"  Le  BSve,"  with  all  its  mysticism  and  poetry,  followed  by 
one  of  Zola's  most  naturalist  volumes,  "  La  B§te  Humaine," 
which  alone,  by  reason  of  its  place  in  the  series,  demonstrated 
the  fallacy  of  their  assumption.  But  as  Vizetelly  pointed 
out,  they,  and  English  people  generally,  had  to  be  taken  as 
they  were.  The  position  had  certainly  improved,  and  Zola's 
presence  in  London  might  well  make  it  better  still,  for  in 
conversation  as  well  as  in  his  speeches  he  might  be  able  to 
clear  up  many  misunderstandings.  At  the  same  time  it  was 
proper  to  bear  in  mind  that  the  Institute  of  Journalists  had 
members  in  all  parts  of  the  country,  and  Vizetelly  did  not 
know  how  far  the  provincial  districts  might  share  the  views 
of  the  London  district,  whence  the  invitation  had  emanated. 
Personally  he  was  very  much  in  favour  of  Zola  accepting  it, 
but  he  would  make  some  inquiries  before  anything  further 
was  done.  Zola  himself  thought  that  course  advisable,  for 
he  at  once  replied :  "  If  I  did  not  immediately  answer  the 
invitation  it  was  precisely  because  I  felt  somewhat  distrust- 
ful, though  it  is  difficult  to  believe  that  they  have  invited  me 
with  the  intention  of  receiving  me  badly.  I  do  not  wish 
the  English  press  to  promise  it  will  sing  my  praises,  but  I 
should  like  to  be  quite  certain  it  will  be  polite  while  I  am 
its  guest.  Please  make  the  inquiries  you  propose,  and  tell 
me  frankly  what  you  think  of  the  situation."  And  he  added 


326      tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

in  a  postscript :  "  I  forgot  to  tell  you  that  the  invitation  is 
addressed  to  M.  JSmile  Zola,  President  de  la  Soci6t£  des 
Gens  de  Lettres." 

That  postscript  was  all  important,  for  it  explained  the 
character  of  the  invitation.  Various  amenities  had  passed 
"between  the  French  Society  and  the  Institute  of  Journa- 
lists already,  and  now  the  Institute,  being  about  to  hold  a 
conference  in  London,  had  courteously  invited  the  officials 
of  various  foreign  organisations.  It  so  happened  that  Zola 
was  one  of  the  officials  in  question.  If  some  other  man  had 
held  his  position  in  the  Soci£t£  des  Gens  de  Lettres  in  1893 
that  other  man  would  certainly  have  been  invited,  and  Zola 
in  all  likelihood  would  not  have  been  asked  at  all.  But  the 
circumstances  were  not  fully  understood  at  the  time,  and 
some  badly  informed  controversialists,  in  their  anger  at 
finding  the  hateful  Zola  a  guest  of  an  English  newspaper 
organisation,  subsequently  heaped  undeserved  abuse  on  the 
Institute  of  Journalists,  Vizetelly,  however,  made  various 
inquiries  of  the  Institute's  officials,  and  having  satisfied 
himself  that  Zola  would  have  no  reason  to  complain  of  his 
reception,  he  again  wrote  suggesting  that  the  invitation 
should  be  accepted.  On  August  18  Zola,  who  meantime  had 
also  consulted  M.  George  Petilleau,  the  official  delegate  of 
the  Soci^t^  des  Gens  de  Lettres  in  England,1  responded ; 

*'  I  have  just  accepted,  officially,  the  invitation  of  the  English 
journalists,  so  it  is  quite  decided  that  I  shall  attend  their  congress, 
It  would  be  very  kind  of  you  to  keep  me  informed  of  any  incidents 
that  may  arise,  and  I  also  rely  on  you  to  let  me  know  as  soon  as 
possible  what  toast  I  shall  have  to  acknowledge  [at  the  Institute's 

1  Mr.  Petilleau  has  also  "been  for  many  years  President  of  the  National  So- 
ciety of  French  Masters  in  England.  He  is  French  professor  at  Charterhouse. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    327 

dinner],  I  understand  also  that  I  shall  be  asked  to  speak  on  the 
question  of  anonymity  in  journalism.  That  is  a  big  question  in 
England,  is  it  not  1  It  would  be  very  kind  of  you  to  tell  me  what 
you  think  of  it,  and  what  the  majority  of  English  journalists  think. 
I  want  to  know  the  ground  beforehand." 

Then  on  August  22  he  wrote : 

My  dear  Confrere,  —  I  am  preparing  the  few  pages  I  wish  to  read 
on  anonymity  in  English  journalism,  and  I  should  like  to  have 
what  information  you  can  give  me.  I  forgot  to  insist  on  one 
point :  Is  literary  and  artistic  criticism  anonymous,  like  other 
things,  in  England?  Do  your  critics,  I  mean  those  who  judge 
books  and  works  of  art,  also  refrain  from  signing  their  articles  1 
Give  me  a  little  information  on  that  point.  Tell  me  clearly  what 
is  the  position  of  criticism  on  your  side  (ckez  wus),  if  it  numbers 
any  remarkable  men,  if  they  are  known,  and  if  people  become  im- 
passioned for  or  against  them  as  in  France.  Again  thanks,  and 
very  cordially  yours,  E.  Z. 

Vizetelly  replied  by  sending  him  a  memorandum,  running 
to  perhaps  a  thousand  words,  and  Zola  was  further  primed 
with  information  by  others,  some  London  correspondents  of 
the  French  press,  and  also  M.  Petilleau,  who  took  a  prom- 
inent part  in  the  proceedings.  Writing  again  to  Vizetelly 
on  August  27,  Zola  said :  "  A  thousand  thanks  for  your  ex- 
cellent notes,  they  will  enable  me  to  write  something  inter- 
esting." In  the  same  letter  he  gave  some  information 
respecting  "  Lourdes  "  which  he  was  then  preparing,  and  he 
again  referred  to  that  work  in  a  note  dated  August  30,  when 
he  said :  "  I  shall  try  every  effort  to  make  it  one-fifth  shorter 
than  '  La  Debacle/  for  such  long  novels  are  disastrous  in 
France."  Those  efforts,  however,  were  hardly  successful,  for 
when  "Lourdes"  was  finished  it  proved  to  be  only  forty 
pages  shorter  than  the  novel  on  the  war. 


328    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Though  Yizetelly  now  had  plenty  of  work  before  him 
—  for  besides  completing  the  edition  of  "  The  Heptameron  " 
on  which  he  had  been  engaged  in  1889,  he  was  helping 
his  father  with  his  reminiscences,  —  he  was  anxious  to  make 
early  arrangements  with  respect  to  "  Lourdes  "  in  the  hope 
of  profiting  by  any  reaction  in  Zola's  favour  which  the1 
forthcoming  visit  to  London  might  promote.  In  that 
respect,  while  he  observed  with  pleasure  that  English 
newspaper  men  seemed  to  be  recovering  from  their  former 
aberration,  he  thought  it  hardly  right  to  leave  Zola  entirely 
in  the  hands  of  a  profession,  many  of  whose  members, 
only  a  few  years  previously,  had  covered  him  with  unmiti- 
gated abuse.  In  these  circumstances  he  communicated 
with  Mr.  afterwards  Sir  Walter  Besant,  whom  he  knew  to 
be  well  informed  respecting  Zola  and  his  works,1  and  who 
had  also  shown  great  personal  kindness  at  the  time  of  the 
Yizetelly  prosecution.  Besant  took  the  hint  immediately, 
but  was  almost  at  a  loss  what  to  suggest,  for  in  all  proba- 
bility in  the  latter  part  of  September,  when  Zola  would 
arrive  in  London,  few  English  authors  of  note  would  be 
there.  However,  he  saw  Mr.  Oswald  Crawfurd,  chairman 
of  the  Authors'  Club,  and  Mr.  Crawfurd,  a  man  of  broad 
views  like  Besant  himself,  took  up  the  matter  with  alacrity. 
During  the  interval  which  ensued,  Mr.  Besant  wrote  several 
times  to  Ernest  Yizetelly,  going  so  far,  on  one  occasion,  as 
to  say,  "  A  dinner  will  be  given  at  the  club  to  M.  Zola  and 
yourself  on  any  day  to  be  named  —  as  quickly  as  possible 
—  by  yourself."  But  Yizetelly,  while  accepting  the  in- 

1  Sir  Walter  himself  related  that  "when  "  L'Assomraoir  "  came  into  his 
hands  he  sat  up  all  night  to  read  it,  unable  to  put  it  down  until  he  had 
reached  the  last  word. 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOKMEB  329 

vitation  on  Zola's  behalf,  and  also  quite  willing  to  attend 
the  dinner,  felt  that  he  must  not  attempt  to  take  any 
prominent  part  in  the  proceedings.  If  he  had  foreseen 
that  his  father,  who  was  still  living  in  retirement  near 
Tilford,  would  be  dead  some  three  months  later,  he  might 
have  adopted  quite  another  course,  in  order  to  procure 
some  personal  satisfaction  for  the  poor  old  man  who  had 
been  pelted  with  mud,  ruined,  and  sent  to  prison.  But 
he  thought  it  premature  to  bring  his  father  forward 
at  that  juncture,  and  therefore  he  said  nothing  to  Mm  or 
to  anybody  else  on  the  subject.  Thus  it  came  to  pass 
that  after  Zola's  visit,  the  inquiry,  a  Where  was  Vizetelly  ? " 
—  started,  the  writer  believes,  by  Mr.  Joseph  Hatton  — 
went  the  round  of  the  newspapers ;  but  while  some  raised 
it  with  the  best  of  intentions,  others  repeated  it  with  a 
malicious  sneer,  a  circumstance  which  seemed  to  indicate 
that  Yizetelly's  son  had  really  taken  the  wisest  course. 
When  the  Journalists'  arrangements  had  been  ascertained, 
the  Authors'  Club  dinner  was  fixed  for  September  28 ;  and 
Zola,  writing  to  Ernest  Vizetelly  on  the  twelfth,  to  express 
his  approval,  said:  "Let  me  add,  that  I  leave  you  full 
liberty.  Whether  those  gentlemen  invite  me  as  a  novelist 
or  as  President  of  the  Soci£t£  des  Gens  de  Lettres,  I  shall 
in  either  case  feel  deeply  touched  and  flattered.  I  am  not 
a  formalist ;  all  genuine  sympathy,  in  whatever  respect,  will 
go  to  my  heart." 

It  was  on  September  20  that  the  novelist  arrived  in 
London1  in  the  company  of  a  dozen  French  journalists, — 
MM.  Magnard,  Scholl,  Eobbe,  Xau,  Mille,  and  others.  Ma- 
dame Zola  and  a  few  other  ladies  were  likewise  of  the  party. 

1  Vizetelly  met  Mm  at  Calais. 


330    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOBMER 

At  Victoria  station  Sir  Edward  Lawson,  now  Lord  Burn- 
ham,  read  in  French,  an  address  of  welcome,  and  Zola, 
when — like  others  —  he  had  briefly  responded,  drove  to 
the  Savoy  Hotel,  where  rooms  had  been  engaged  for  him. 
The  paper  on  anonymity  which  he  read  a  couple  of  days 
afterwards  to  the  journalists  assembled  in  Lincoln's  Inn 
Hall  was,  on  the  whole,  well  received.  He  admitted  that 
the  practice  of  signing  political  articles  in  France  had 
undermined  the  authority  of  the  press  there,  and  tended 
to  the  destruction  of  parties ;  but,  at  the  same  'time,  said 
he,  it  had  to  be  recognised  that  much  of  the  inspiriting 
ardour  of  the  political  battle  sprang  from  that  same  prac- 
tice. On  the  other  hand,  as  it  was  the  custom  for  English 
political  journalists  to  write  anonymously,  it  might  be 
well  if  they  continued  to  do  so,  in  order  to  preserve  the 
power  and  authority  of  their  press.  But  Zola  pleaded 
strongly  for  signed  articles  in  the  departments  of  literary 
and  dramatic  criticism,  pointing  out,  by  the  way,  that  such 
articles  were  indeed  beginning  to  appear  in  certain  English 
journals.  One  remark  of  his,  to  the  effect  that  English 
newspaper  men  were  well  paid,  elicited  a  loud  roar  of 
laughter,  and  there  was  considerable  dissent  when  he 
likened  some  journalists  to  mere  writing-machines  at  the 
beck  and  call  of  a  superior.  On  that  question  some  news- 
papers afterwards  pointed  out  that  on  two  occasions  when 
there  had  been  a  change  in  the  proprietorship  of  "  The  Pall 
Mall  Gazette "  the  editors  and  the  bulk  of  their  staff  had 
quitted  the  paper  to  uphold  their  opinions  elsewhere.  One 
may  add  that  later,  during  the  Boer  war,  various  editors 
and  others  threw  up  their  posts  rather  than  write  con- 
trary to  their  convictions.  One  passage  of  Zola's  address 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    331 

certainly  seemed  to  have  the  full  approval  of  Ms  audience. 
It  ran  as  follows :  "  To  my  thinking,  when  a  writer  does 
not  sign  his  work,  and  becomes  a  mere  wheel  in  a  great 
machine,  he  ought  to  share  the  income  earned  by  that 
machine.  Have  you  retiring  pensions  for  your  aged  jour- 
nalists ?  After  they  have  devoted  their  anonymous  labour 
to  the  common  task,  year  after  year,  is  the  bread  of  their 
old  age  assured  to  them  ?  If  they  signed  their  work,  surely 
they  would  find  their  reward  elsewhere ;  they  would  have 
laboured  for  themselves.  But  when  they  have  given  their 
all,  even  their  fame,  strict  justice  demands  that  they  should 
be  treated  like  those  old  servants  whose  whole  life  has  been 
spent  in  the  service  of  the  same  family." 

The  journalists  present  having  derided  the  suggestion  that 
they  were  well  paid,  it  seemed  only  natural  that  they  should 
approve  the  idea  of  old-age  pensions.  At  that  time,  of  course, 
there  already  existed  such  organisations  as  the  Newspaper 
Press  Fund;  and  since  then  various  pensions  have  been 
established  by  the  Institute  of  Journalists ;  yet  one  may  well 
wonder  if  there  be  even  nowadays  anything  approaching 
adequate  provision  for  the  old  age  of  journalists,  of  whom 
the  great  majority  are  able  to  save  little  or  nothing  of  their 
earnings.  It  was  undoubtedly  this  side  of  the  question  that 
most  influenced  Zola  in  his  remarks  on  anonymity,  which  he 
regarded  as  being  entirely  in  the  newspaper  proprietor's 
favour,  for  it  enabled  him,  if  he  chose,  to  cast  a  writer  adrift 
with  nothing  of  the  position  which  he  might  have  held  in 
public  esteem  as  the  result  of  his  labours,  if  his  articles  had 
been  signed.  Briefly,  in  journalism  as  in  other  matters,  Zola 
was  on  the  side  of  the  worker  and  against  the  capitalist. 

No  doubt  when  he  was  invited  to  London,  purely  and 


332      iMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

simply  on  account  of  the  office  he  held,  It  was  not  foreseen 
that  his  visit  would  develop  as  it  did.  But  although  he  was 
accompanied  by  several  notahle  men  he  speedily  dwarfed 
them  all,  becoming  the  centre  of  attraction  at  every  gathering 
of  the  Institute  of  Journalists.  There  was  a  great  dinner 
at  the  Crystal  Palace,  a  reception  at  the  Imperial  Institute, 
and  another,  which  was  given  to  the  journalists  by  the  Lord 
Mayor,  at  the  Guildhall.  That  historic  building  was  then 
thronged  to  overflowing,  and  it  was  strange  indeed  —  remem- 
bering all  that  had  gone  before  —  to  see  Zola  and  his  wife 
marching  in  a  kind  of  state  procession,  preceded  by  the 
City's  trumpeters  and  followed  by  the  Lord  Mayor,  the 
President  of  the  Institute  and  other  dignitaries,  while  some 
official  who  cleared  the  way  called  persistently :  "  Monsieur 
Zola !  Madame  Zola  1 "  as  though  a  couple  of  royalties  were 
approaching. 

Other  entertainments  were  given  at  this  time.  Some  of 
the  theatres  were  thrown  open  to  the  guests  of  the  Institute 
of  Journalists ;  Sir  Edward  Lawson  gave  them  a  lunch  at 
Taplow,  there  was  a  cordial  little  reception  at  the  Press  Club ; 
while  the  Athenaeum  Club  conferred  honorary  membership 
on  Zola  for  the  period  of  his  stay  in  London.  That  last  dis- 
tinction was  the  most  unexpected  of  all,  and  assuredly  the 
Bishops  belonging  to  the  Athenaeum  cannot  have  known  of 
it.  At  the  Authors'  Club  dinner,  which  closed  the  round 
of  "semi-official"  gatherings,  there  were  some  eighty  men  of 
letters,  with  a  sprinkling  of  publishers  and  others,  present. 
When  Mr.  Oswald  Crawf urd  had  proposed  Zola's  health  — 
which  he  did  in  excellent  French  and  very  laudatory  terms 
—  the  novelist,  no  orator,  as  he  had  carefully  stated  at  the 
outset  of  his  sojourn,  read  his  reply,  which  may  be  given 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOBMER    333 

here  as  a  specimen  of  his  few  public  utterances,  for  he  did 
not  read  or  make  more  than  a  score  of  speeches  in  the  whole 
course  of  his  career. 

"  Since  I  reached  London,"  he  said,  "  I  have  received  so  many 
greetings  and  have  so  often  been  called  upon  to  respond  thereto, 
that  I  am  a  little  ashamed  to  speak  again.  I  need  not,  however, 
solicit  your  indulgent  attention  for  any  length  of  time.  Indeed, 
in  all  modesty,  I  ask  your  permission  to  be  very  brief  on  this  occa- 
sion* Nothing  could  have  touched  me  more  deeply  than  your  very 
flattering  invitation.  I  know  that  eminent  writers  are  here  assem- 
bled to  extend  to  me  the  right  hand  of  fellowship,  and  I  feel  that 
it  is  no  longer  the  journalist  but  the  novelist  that  is  being  enter- 
tained. (Applause.)  Moreover,  you  have  reminded  me  that  in 
Paris  I  am  the  president  of  the  Societ^  des  Gens  de  Lettres ;  so 
that  in  my  person  you  honour  all  French  literature.  (Applause.) 
I  should  wish,  therefore,  to  allow  my  own  personality  to  disappear, 
and  be  nothing  more  than  the  delegate  of  my  French  brethren, 
to  whom  I  shall  attribute  by  far  the  greater  part  of  the  very 
cordial  homage  you  have  paid  to  me.  I  desire,  indeed,  gentlemen, 
to  insist  upon  the  feeling  of  fitting  modesty  that  I  shall  carry  away 
with  me  from  all  these  functions.  You  have  told  me,  Mr.  Chair- 
man, that,  after  conquering  the  world,  I  have  come  to  conquer 
England.  Will  you  allow  me  to  reply  that  I  know  what  I  ought 
to  think  of  my  conquest  1  Amidst  all  the  plaudits,  I  well  under- 
stand that  the  opinion  of  your  critics  has  not  changed  in  regard  to 
my  works.  Only,  you  have  now  seen  their  author,  and  have  found 
him  less  black  than  report  painted  him.  (Laughter  and  applause. ) 
Then,  too,  you  have  reflected  —  'Here  is  a  man  who  has  fought 
hard  and  worked  a  great  deal';  and  belonging  as  you  do  to  a 
great  nation  of  workers,  you  have  honoured  work  in  me.  (Applause.) 
Lastly,  it  has  occurred  to  you  that  a  man  cannot  have  conquered 
the  world  —  according  to  the  facetious  expression  of  two  of  your 
number — without  being  worthy  of  some  praise.  Works  of  a  differ- 
ent order  in  art  to  your  own  may  have  affronted  you,  but  you 


334    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

were  too  sensible  to  refrain  from  according  them  some  recognition 
as  soon  as  you  understood  how  much  effort  and  sincerity  they 
embodied*  I  am  leaving  London,  not,  indeed,  as  one  who  has 
triumphed,  but  as  a  man  who  is  happy  at  leaving  some  sympathetic 
feelings  behind  him.  My  heart  overflows  with  gratitude  for  the 
hospitality,  so  extensive  and  so  refined,  that  you  have  accorded 
me.  Here  I  say  good-bye,  or  rather  au  revoir  (loud  applause) ; 
and  I  say  it,  through  you,  to  your  compatriots*  I  wish,  through 
you,  to  assure  my  brother  authors,  my  fellow-novelists,  that  I  shall 
never  forget  the  truly  royal  reception  that  a  mere  French  writer 
has  received  in  this  huge  city  of  London,  throbbing  with  life  and 
so  worthy  of  inspiring  masterpieces.  And,  gentlemen,  as  at  the 
close  of  every  banquet  it  is  right  to  propose  a  toast,  I  drink  now 
alike  to  the  novelists  of  England  and  the  novelists  of  France,  to 
the  good-fellowship  of  all  authors  in  one  universal  republic  of 
letters.  (Loud  applause.)  n  l 

Ernest  Vizetelly  was  present  at  the  Authors*  Club  dinner, 
and  spent  half  an  hour  in  the  crush  at  the  Guildhall,  besides 
hearing  Zola  read  his  paper  on  anonymity.  But  he  abstained 
from  attending  most  of  the  other  festivities.  Every  morn- 
ing at  an  early  hour  he  arrived  at  the  Savoy  Hotel  to 
assist  the  novelist  with  his  correspondence,  the  hundreds  of 
applications  for  autographs  and  interviews,  which  poured  in 
upon  him ;  and  after  the  first  few  days,  —  as  soon  as  Zola 
had  a  little  leisure,  —  he  took  him  to  see  one  and  another  of 
the  sights  of  London.  Mr.  George  Moore  also  escorted  the 
Zolas  to  Greenwich;  Mr.  Andrew  Chatto  gave  them  a 
friendly  luncheon;  Mr.  afterwards  Sir  Campbell  Clarke 
acted  as  their  cicerone  at  the  National  Gallery,  and  Dr. 
Garnett  at  the  British  Museum  Library.  There  were  also 
some  interesting  visits  to  the  French  Hospital  and  the 

1  From  a  draft  of  the  French  text. 


6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER     335 

French  Club  under  M.  Petilleau's  guidance,  an  excursion 
with  Vizetelly  and  a  fellow-journalist  to  County  Council 
and  Eowton  lodging-houses,  Rothschild  almshouses,  various 
sweaters'  dens,  sundry  Jewish  homes  in  Whitechapel,  and 
Italian  ones  at  Saffron  Hill.  On  the  whole,  however,  Zola 
was  not  impressed  by  what  he  saw  of  London  poverty ;  he 
declared  it  to  be  nothing  in  comparison  with  what  might 
be  found  in  Paris.  There  was  much  want,  no  doubt,  but  it 
struck  him  that  the  passer-by  saw  little  of  it.  And  to  em- 
phasise his  meaning  he  reminded  Vizetelly  of  the  Parisian 
ragpickers'  "He  des  Singes"  and  the  woeful  Route  de  la 
Rdvolte,  which  certainly  has  never  had  its  parallel  in. 
modern  London. 

Westminster  Abbey  naturally  interested  him,  though  his 
visit  was  a  very  perfunctory  one,  owing  to  the  haste  of  the 
usual  verger  with  the  sing-song  voice.  When  one  first  entered 
the  abbey,  however,  some  afternoon  service  was  in  progress, 
and  after  standing  and  watching  for  a  time,  Zola  whispered 
to  Vizetelly:  "I  did  not  know  this  was  still  a  Catholic 
Church."  "  It  is  Church  of  England  —  Protestant,"  Vizetelly 
answered,  whereupon  Zola  seemed  lost  in  astonishment. 
"  Protestant  ? "  he  whispered  again,  well,  all  that  is  very 
much  like  Mass  to  me."  Then  he  shrugged  his  shoulders 
and  led  the  way  outside,  where  one  waited  till  the  service 
was  over.  At  the  National  Gallery  he  was  most  interested 
in  Turner,  whom  he  called  la  palette  incarnfie  and  whom  he 
regarded  as  being  far  superior  to  Claude.  And  he  greatly 
admired  Turner's  water-colour  sketches  in  the  little  rooms 
in  the  basement  of  the  building,  where  he  lingered  for  nearly 
a  couple  of  hours.  The  British  Museum  Library  also  pleased 
him  immensely,  notably  on  account  of  its  perfect  arrange- 


336     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

meats  which,  were  so  superior,  said  he,  to  those  of  the 
Biblloth&que  Rationale  in  Paris.  However,  what  he  admired 
in  London  most  of  all  was  the  Thames,  at  Westminster,  at 
Waterloo  Bridge,  and  again  at  the  docks  and  away  towards 
Greenwich.  Of  Hyde  Park  he  formed  a  very  poor  opinion, 
while  that  royal  barracks,  Buckingham  Palace,  seemed  to 
him  a  national  disgrace:  a  view  which  most  intelligent 
foreigners  share. 

On  the  whole,  Zola  was  extremely  well  pleased  with  his 
stay  in  London;  he  had  been  received  there  with  perfect 
courtesy,  Sir  Edward  Lawson,  Mr.  Oswald  Crawfurd,  Mr. 
Charles  Williams,  then  president  of  the  London  district  of 
the  Institute  of  Journalists,  Mr.  Lucien  Wolf,  and  others 
had  done  all  that  lay  in  their  power ;  and  Zola  on  his  side 
had  at  least  made  a  breach  in  the  wall  of  British  prejudice. 
The  result  could  not  be  otherwise  than  good,  he  said  to 
Vizetelly ;  there  would  probably  be  less  antagonism  to  his 
writings  among  English  people  in  the  future;  but  the 
point  which  interested  Mm  most  of  all  was  the  effect  his 
reception  might  have  in  Paris,  notably  among  the  members 
of  the  French  Academy.  He  had  been  denounced  more 
hotly  in  England  than  in  any  other  country,  he  remarked, 
and  the  fact  that  English  people  were  now  beginning  to 
take  a  more  reasonable  view  of  his  work  might  possibly 
react  on  Trench  opinion.  But,  as  we  know,  the  Academy 
did  not  disarm.  The  majority  of  its  members  would  not 
suffer  his  presence  among  them  on  any  consideration. 

Moreover,  he  had  scarcely  quitted  England  when  the 
fanatics  once  more  raised  their  heads.  At  the  Church  Con- 
gress which  assembled  at  Birmingham  that  year,  Dr.  Pe~ 
rowne,  the  Bishop  of  Worcester,  had  the  effrontery  to 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMER    337 

declare  that  "Zola  had  spent  his  life  in  corrupting  the 
minds  and  souls  not  only  of  thousands  of  his  fellow-coun- 
trymen and  especially  of  the  young  but  also,  by  the  trans- 
lation of  his  works,  thousands  and  hundreds  of  thousands 
of  young  souls  elsewhere/*  At  the  same  gathering  Mr. 
J.  K  C.  Welldon,  then  Headmaster  of  Harrow  School  and 
later  Bishop  of  Bombay,  denounced  the  novelist  as  "In- 
famous," and  besought  the  aid  of  Churchmen  for  the  "  Na- 
tional Vigilant  Association/'  of  which,  according  to  "The 
National  Observer,"  he,  Mr.  Welldon,  was  "  a  conspicuous 
ornament."1  The  Bishop  of  Truro,  speaking  at  a  church 
gathering  in  the  west  of  England  took  a  similar  line,  and 
complained  bitterly  that  translations  of  Zola's  horrible 
books  were  sold  at  the  railway-station  bookstalls,  which, 
said  he,  would  never  have  been  allowed  in  the  lifetime  of 
that  good  man,  Mr.  W.  H.  Smith.  Ernest  Vizetelly  an- 
swered the  prelate  in  a  newspaper  of  his  diocese,  point- 
ing out  that  the  only  Zola  translations  sold  at  Messrs. 
Smith's  bookstalls  were  those  of  "La  D£Mcle"  and  "Le 
Docteur  Pascal"  by  himself,  and  that  of  "Le  R§ve"  by 
Miss  Eliza  Chase ;  and  he  defied  the  bishop  to  find  in  any 
one  of  those  three  books  a  single  sentence  that  could  give 
offence  to  any  sensible  man.  Other  correspondents  rein- 
forced Vizetelly;  but  the  bishop;  quite  content  with  having 
uttered  his  slander,  preserved  absolute  silence,  that  being  a 
characteristic  trait  with  some  bishops — of  various  churches 
and  countries — who,  regarding  themselves  as  very  supe- 
rior persons,  seldom  if  ever  offer  reparation  for  the  asper- 
sions they  may  cast  upon  laymen*  Tet  the  law  of  libel 

i  "National    Observer":    "Kealist   and    Ranter,"    October    14,    1893. 
Pp.  551-552. 

22 


338  ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEB 

applies  to  them  as  to  others,  and  it  is  perhaps  a  pity  it 
is  not  enforced  against  them*  But  the  lawyers  say,  or 
at  least  they  said  to  Vizetelly :  "  It  is  useless  to  proceed 
against  an  English  bishop.  There  is  so  much  cant  in  this 
country  that  yon  would  never  obtain  a  verdict  against 
him,  however  complete  your  evidence  might  be." 

As  for  Bishop  Perowne  of  Worcester  he  was  answered 
in  "The  Speaker"  by  its  contributor,  Mr.  A.  T.  Quiller- 
Gouch,  as  well  as  by  sundry  correspondents,  one  of  whom 
pointed  out  that  this  chartered  slanderer  "  had  not  so  much 
evidence  to  back  his  insinuations  and  assertions  as  would 
wrap  round  a  mustard  seed."  Mr.  Welldon  was  also  dealt 
with  at  length  and  very  ably  by  Mr.  Quiller-Couch,  the 
controversy  in  "The  Speaker"  being  prolonged  until  the 
latter  part  of  November.1  Ernest  Vizetelly  was  at  first 
unaware  of  it,  but  a  friend  who,  having  little  acquaintance 
with  literature,  read  that  Liberal  weekly  chiefly  for  its  po- 
litical articles,  said  to  him  one  day:  "You  ought  to  see 
"The  Speaker/  There's  a  lawyer  who  is  defending  Zola 
and  your  father  in  it  very  vigorously.  He  is  the  kind  of 
man  your  father  ought  to  have  had  as  counsel  at  his  trial" 
"A  lawyer?"  Vizetelly  replied,  "why,  what  is  his  name?" 
"Oh!  he  only  appends  his  initials  <A.  T/  to  his  articles; 
but  I  felt  interested,  and  so  I  consulted  the  law-list  at 
my  club,  He's  a  Queen's  counsel,  by  the  way;  and  the 
only  Queen's  counsel  whose  initials  are  A.  T.  is  the  Hon. 
Alfred  Thesiger,  so  he  undoubtedly  is  the  man."  The 
truth,  however,  had  suddenly  dawned  on  Vizetelly,  who 
began  to  laugh  as  he  answered:  "The  initials  are  A.  T., 
you  say;  but  the  writer  puts  Q.  C.  after  them,  does  he 

1  See  notably  the  issues  of  October  14  and  28,  1903. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEB    339 

not  ?  I  thought  so.  Well,  I  am  much  obliged  to  you  for 
your  information,  but  you  are  all  at  sea.  Your  Hon.  Alfred 
Thesiger,  Q.  C.,  is  none  other  than  Mr.  A.  T.  Quiller- 
Couch!"  Then,  while  his  friend  was  expressing  his  as- 
tonishment, Vizetelly  began  to  think  of  fame. 

In  the  controversy  in  question  Mr*  Welldon,  who  ended 
by  admitting  that  he  had  read  only  three  of  Zola's  books, 
received  the  support  of  clerics  of  various  denominations* 
One  of  them,  Canon  MacOoll,  of  Ripon,  who  would  seem  to 
have  been  then  very  fond  of  writing  to  the  newspapers  on 
all  sorts  of  subjects,  raised  the  old  argument  that  even 
if  Zola  might  have  had  some  justification  for  publishing, 
for  instance,  "  La  Terre "  in  France,  there  could  have  been 
none  for  its  issue  in  English  and  in  England  by  Henry 
Vizetelly.  No  doubt  the  canon  was  right.  As  was  set 
forth  in  a  previous  chapter  the  rural  districts  of  England 
were  and  are  terrestrial  paradises,  where  immorality  and 
beastliness  were  and  are  absolutely  unknown.  The  ob- 
servers who  assert  the  contrary  must  be  either  liars  or 
deluded  fools.  The  clergy  who  are  to  be  found  in  every 
village  vouch  for  the  high  moral  tone  of  their  parish- 
ioners ;  and  it  follows  that  one  must  not  believe  those 
who  chance  to  sit  on  juries  at  provincial  assizes  to  try 
the  various  horrible  cases,  frequently  from  the  aforesaid 
rural  districts,  which  are  never  reported  by  a  decorous  press. 
Everything  is  for  the  best,  then,  in  rural  England,  and 
the  most  perfect  men  in  the  whole  world  are  the  truth- 
speaking  bishops  who  begin  life  in  modest  circumstances 
and  end  by  leaving  huge  fortunes  to  their  families,  the 
many-sided  canons  fond  of  joining  in  every  controversy, 
and  the  dogmatic  clerical  schoolmasters  who  take  as  their 


340    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFQEMEE 

guide  the  saying  attributed,  perhaps  erroneously,1  to  Eiche- 
lieu :  "  Give  me  six  lines  written  by  the  most  honest  man 
in  the  world,  and  I  will  find  in  them  enough  to  have  him 
hanged.'1 

Henry  Yketelly,  to  whom  his  son  forwarded  "The 
Speaker"  while  the  controversy  continued,  observed  with 
some  surprise  Mr.  Quiller-Couch's  assertion  that  the  public 
conscience  would  not  permit  a  repetition  of  such  proceedings 
as  had  been  taken  against  him.  He  thereupon  wrote  to  Mr. 
Quiller-Couch  saying  that  in  his  opinion  the  public  con- 
science could  only  find  expression  through  the  press,  and 
that  in  the  event  of  a  new  prosecution  the  press  would  again 
remain  silent  until  the  "National  Vigilants"  had  secured 
a  verdict,  when  it  would  once  more  join  in  approving  the 
"  vindication  of  the  law."  That  view  was  shared  by  Vize- 
tell/s  son.  Indeed,  though  Zola  had  been  so  well  received 
in  London,  even  by  some  of  the  provincial  journalists  who 
attended  the  Institute's  Congress,  though,  too,  newspaper 
men  of  education  had  come  to  a  truer  perception  of  his  aims, 
aad  several  wrote  very  favourably  about  his  more  recent 
books,  it  remained  quite  certain  that  he  still  had  numerous 
enemies  on  all  sides.  At  the  close  of  that  year,  1893,  or 
more  correctly  on  the  first  morning  of  the  ensuing  one, 
Henry  Vizetelly  died,  and  immediately  afterwards  another 
controversy  began,  this  time  in  the  London  "  Daily  Chron- 
icle." The  chief  features  of  the  prosecutions  of  1888  and 
1889  were  recalled  by  Eobert  Buchanan,  Frank  Harris,  and 
George  Moore,  the  first  of  whom  dwelt  on  the  attitude  of  the 
press  with  respect  both  to  those  proceedings  and  to  Zola 
generally.  Various  protests  arose,  and,  according  to  some 

1  See  fidouard  Founder's  <f  L'Esprit  dana  1'Hiatoire,"  Paria,1860,  p.  229. 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOBMER    341 

people,  it  was  quite  untrue  tlxat  the  English  press  had  ever 
flung  mud  at  Zola  or  his  publisher.  The  absurdity  of  that 
contention  was  made  manifest  by  the  publication,  at  that 
very  moment,  of  several  articles  in  which  all  the  old  lies 
and  aspersions  were  repeated.  These,  it  is  true,  appeared 
mostly  in  provincial  journals;  but  two  or  three  London 
prints  did  not  hesitate  to  befoul  yet  once  again  the  dead 
publisher  as  well  as  the  recently  banqueted  novelist,  whom 
Gr*  W.  Story,  when  recounting  the  controversy  in  "  The  New 
York  Tribune,"  foolishly  described  as  being  "  the  most  lewd 
writer  in  the  world."  It  must  be  said,  to  Story's  credit,  that 
his  article  was  a  signed  one ;  whereas  the  valiant  scribes  of 
the  British  press  remained  anonymous.  They  found,  un- 
doubtedly, that  "  anonymity  in  journalism "  had  its  advan- 
tages, and  wisely  decided  to  cling  to  it.  Since  that  time, 
however,  the  practice  of  signing  critical  articles  has  spread 
considerably  and  may  some  day  become  the  general  rule. 


XI 

A  CRITICAL  GLANCE 

1893 

Zola's  short  stories  —  His  early  novels  —  His  sense  of  poetry  and  Ms  realism 

—  Poetry  and  science  —  The  futility  of  literary  dogmas  —  The  law  of 
change — The  influence  of  science  on  literature  —  Why  Zola  became  a 
novelist  —  His  attitude  towards  life  and  his  fellow-men  —  The  Rougon- 
Macquart  series —  The  order  in  which  it  was  published  and  the  order  in 
which  it  should  be  read — " Rougon-Macquart "  and  "Robert  Macair^" 

—  A  survey  of  the  volumes  —  Their  human  and  animal  characters- — 
0reat  variety   of  their   contents  —  How  they  were   prepared  —  Zola's 
alleged  ignorance  —  His  handwriting  —  His  style  —  Some  fine  pages  — 
Some  blunders  —  Various  critical  remarks — The  series  as  a  whole  —  A 
living  psychology  —  Some  remarks  on  translations — A  glance  at  Zola  as 
a  playwright. 

IN  previous  chapters  one  lias  enumerated  the  many  books 
— novels,  volumes  of  tales  and  essays  —  put  forth  by  Zola 
from  the  time  he  began  to  write  until  he  completed  the 
Bougon-Macquart  series.  That  completion  marks  a  date  in 
his  career,  and  it  is  now  fit  one  should  glance  back  at  the 
work  he  had  accomplished.  His  minor  writings  may  be 
noticed  briefly.  His  first  volume,  "Les  Contes  &  Ninon," 
suggests  the  influence  of  Victor  Hugo  largely  tempered  by 
that  of  Alfred  de  Musset,  with  here  and  there,  too,  some 
sign  of  incipient  realism.  It  is  immediately  apparent  that 
much  time  and  care  were  spent  on  the  writing  of  these  tales, 
the  style  of  which  is  often  perfect  and  always  charming. 
The  companion  volume,  "  Nouveaux  Contes  k  Ninon,"  pub- 
lished ten  years  later,  is  inferior  to  the  earlier  one,  much 
of  the  matter  contained  within  its  covers  being  but  news- 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE      343 

piper  work.  Nevertheless  "Les  Quatre  Jounces  de  Jean 
Gourdon  "  Is  in  its  way  admirable ;  and  in  "  Le  Petit  Man- 
teau  bleu  "  one  recognises  the  spirit  which  presided  over  the 
former  tales.  Realism  is  often  quite  manifest  in  this  second 
volume,  and  the  explanations  given  in  its  preface  are  almost 
superfluous,  for  one  can  easily  tell  that  it  is  the  work  of 
a  man  who  has  passed  through  the  furnace,  whereas  the 
first  volume  was  all  youth,  buoyant,  aspiring,  with  wings 
unclipt. 

Zola's  other  tales,  those  in  the  volumes  entitled  <cLe 
Capitaine  Burle"  and  "Nals  Micoulin,"  belong  to  a  later 
date  and  are  very  different  from  the  early  ones.  If  the 
influence  of  the  poets  appears  in  them  at  intervals,  it  is  in 
diction  rather  than  ideas.  Even  the  poetic  suggestion  lurk- 
ing in  the  tale  "  Pour  une  nuit  d'amour,"  which  Poe  might 
almost  have  written,  can  only  be  traced  with  difficulty,  for  it 
is  wrapped  in  a  ghastly  realism.  The  story  of  "  Nantas  "  is 
perhaps  the  best  of  these  later  little  efforts,  as  it  is  certainly 
the  most  powerful ;  but  "  Nais  Micoulin  "  is  also  one  of  the 
present  writer's  favourites,  perhaps  because,  whatever  its 
ardour,  it  does  no  violence  to  possibilities.  Placed  beside 
the  tales  of  Guy  de  Maupassant,  those  of  Zola,  in  spite  of 
all  the  naturalism  of  their  details,  strike  one  as  being  more 
romantic,  more  imaginative ;  and  this  is  as  it  should  be,  for 
Zola  was  largely  a  child  of  the  sun,  whereas  Maupassant, 
however  passionate  his  temperament,  was  always  a  Norman, 
deficient  in  the  purely  imaginative  faculty  but  possessed  of 
great  shrewdness  —  intuition,  so  to  say,  —  which  assisted  his 
powers  of  observation  and  his  superb  craftsmanship.  Thus 
he  excelled  in  transcribing  the  human  document  such  as  it 
appears  to  most  Northern  minds. 


344     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

As  it  is  with  Zola's  short  stories  so  it  is  with  his  earlier 
novels;  "La  Confession  de  Claude"  is  a  struggle  between 
poetry  and  reality,  the  presentment  of  a  soul  longing  for  the 
empyrean  but  forced  to  surrender  to  all  the  horrors  of  degra- 
dation. The  fragmentary  *  Veen  d'une  Morte  "  contains  in- 
dications of  the  same  battle  continuing.  "Les  Myst&res 
de  Marseilles "  is  a  thing  apart ;  but,  at  last,  in  "  Th&rkse 
Raquin  "  and  "  Madeleine  F£rat "  realism  triumphs  brutally 
and  in  its  first  victorious  hour  blackens  the  canvas  to  excess. 
Average  truth  is  disregarded  —  as  Zola  himself  admits  — 
and  the  agony  is  piled  on  to  the  point  of  nightmare.  This 
is  done,  perchance,  by  the  realist  in  Zola  in  order  that 
no  loophole  may  be  left  for  the  poet,  also  within  him,  to 
rise  again. 

But  take  the  Rougon-Macquart  series,  and  there,  amid  all 
the  realism  of  twenty  volumes,  a  revival  of  the  poetic  sense 
will  be  found  displaying  itself  repeatedly.  Remember  the 
idyll  of  Silv&re  and  Miette,  that  of  Marjolin  and  Cadine, 
that  of  Ang^lique  and  F&icien,  that  of  Serge  and  Albine,  the 
Paradou,  H41&ne  and  Henri,  the  vistas  of  Paris  from  the 
heights  of  Passy,  the  love  of  Goujet  for  Gervaise,  even  that 
of  Georges  Hugon  for  Nana,  the  epic  march  of  the  miners 
in  "Germinal/*  the  epic  charge  of  the  cavalry  at  Sedan, 
Clotilde's  communion  with  herself  while  giving  suck  to  her 
babe,  and  all  the  other  instances.  There  may  be  no  trace 
of  poetry  and  romance  in  "  Th&&se  Raquin,"  but  Zola  when 
writing  that  book  must  have  known  full  well  that  he  had 
only  scotched,  not  killed,  his  poetic  tendencies.  To  under- 
stand him  aright,  let  us  remember  that  he  made  his  dgbuts  at 
a  time  when  science  was  enlarging  her  domain  daily.  For 
him  she  exercised  a  fascination  equal  to  that  of  art.  In  his 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     345 

youth  lie  had  turned  eagerly  to  certain  scientific  studies 
even  while  he  was  steeping  himself  in  poetiy,  and  later  he 
devoured  Mourens,  Zimmermann,  translations  of  the  great 
scientists  of  England  and  Germany.  He  saw  that  there  was 
often  a  deep  poetry  in  science ;  he  dreamt  of  making  it  mani- 
fest, —  of  going  further,  —  of  associating  science  and  art,  of 
establishing  their  co-relation,  welding  them  together  even 
in  instances  when  to  some  folk  they  seemed  to  be  antag- 
onistic. His  nature,  as  one  has  remarked  previously,  was 
a  compound,  a  hybrid  one,  by  no  means  unique,  but  such 
as  is  not  often  observed.  "  Lewis  Carroll "  supplies  a  some- 
what approximate  instance ;  in  him  one  found  the  mathe- 
matician elbowing  the  romancer,  only  he  did  not  dream 
of  importing  "  Euclid  "  into  "Alice."  Zola,  in  doing  so,  or 
rather  in  doing  something  similar,  was  not  entirely  influ- 
enced by  his  own  special  nature,  but  was  carried  along  by 
the  spirit  of  Ms  age,  in  which  everything  tended  towards 
science.  Those  who  remember  Darwin  and  Faraday  and 
Huxley  and  the  others,  and  the  thirst  that  came  on  so 
many  young  men  in  those  days,  will  not  gainsay  it 

The  literary  critics  declared,  of  course,  and  many  of  them 
declare  still,  that  Zola  was  altogether  wrong.  Regarding 
Art  as  being  so  distinct,  so  different  from  Science  that  no 
amalgam  could  be  effected,  they  laid  down  and  still  lay 
down  certain  rules  as  being  necessary  to  salvation.  That 
attitude  was  and  is  preposterous  to  the  open  mind  which 
holds  that  no  dogmas  are  of  any  account,  and  that  of  those 
who  frame  them  one  may  say  in  Dante's  words : 
"  Non-ragionam  di  lor,  ma  guarda  e  passa." 

It  is  true  that  some  critics  have  asserted  that  if  there  be  no 
finality  in  science  there  is  a  finality  in  art.  But  in  fiction, 


346    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

with  which  alone  one  is  concerned  here,"  the  form  has 
changed  repeatedly,  and  on  each  such  occasion  the  loud 
protests  raised  by  the  representatives  of  old  and  recognised 
schools  have  proved  ineffectual.  One  rule,  one  dogma  after 
another,  has  been  set  aside,  and  still  and  ever  the  evolution 
has  continued.  To  say  that  the  artist  in  fiction  must  do 
this  and  must  not  do  that  is  to  expose  oneself  to  the  ridi- 
cule, at  times,  even  of  one's  contemporaries,  and  certainly  of 
posterity.  Take  a  comparatively  recent  epoch  and  think 
of  the  dogmas  and  the  protests  brought  forward  by  the 
Classiques  in  their  great  contest  with  the  Komantiques  in 
France,  and  remember  who,  in  the  end,  were  vanquished. 
Thus  men  of  conservative  views  may  protest,  but  if  there 
be  a  good  cause  for  any  evolution,  which  one  or  another 
writer  may  essay,  it  will  end  by  triumphing  in  spite  of  all 
the  opposition  offered  to  it 

The  art  of  the  novelist  has  been  often  likened  to  that 
of  the  painter,  but  it  does  not  follow  that  this  is  the  only 
possible  comparison.  A  novelist  may  liken  himself  to  a 
sculptor,  in  fact  to  anybody  he  chooses.  Nothing,  more- 
over, is  final  The  world,  as  modern  scientists  have  just  re- 
discovered, and  as  Heraclitus  asserted  three  and  twenty 
centuries  ago,  is  not  a  being  but  a  becoming.  Change  is 
the  universal  law,  even  in  matter ;  and  if  some  minds,  im- 
prisoned within  narrow  ideas  and  formulas,  find  it  impossible 
to  contemplate  the  possibility  of  certain  changes,  they  must 
yield  to  the  broader  minds  for  which  everything  is  possible. 
The  world's  changes  are  reflected  in  its  literature.  Science 
within  our  own  time  has  profoundly  modified  the  study 
and  the  writing  of  history.  As  for  the  novel,  the  Roman- 
ticists spoke  no  last  word,  for  it  was  not  in  their  power 


J£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  347 

to  do  so.  Whether  Zola  had  arisen  or  not,  it  was  fatal 
that  the  novel  should  at  last  embrace  many  things  which 
earlier  writers  of  fiction  had  never  dreamt  of  including  in 
it,  that  it  should,  in  a  word,  follow  the  trend  of  the  modern 
mind. 

Among  writers,  moreover,  there  are  always  many  whose 
aim  is  not  mere  amusement  Some  openly  declare  instruc- 
tion, enlightenment,  to  be  their  purpose.  Some  are  only 
half  conscious  of  their  mission,  some  not  at  all,  and  it  hap- 
pens not  unfrequently  that  a  lesson  is  conveyed  in  books 
where  it  has  been  never  intended.  At  one  time  the  drama 
was  the  form  of  literature  which  appealed  most  success- 
fully to  the  greater  number.  The  novel  at  last  acquired 
a  similar  position,  and  it  followed  that  the  writer  who 
wished  to  reach  the  greater  number  had  to  approach  them 
as  a  novelist.  That  had  been  done  long  before  the  time 
of  Zola,  who  was  both  a  writer  with  a  purpose  and  one  who 
wished  to  reach  the  majority.  STow,  if  an  author  desire 
to  bring  about  some  reformation  of  the  community,  it  is 
natural  that  he  should  begin  by  portraying  it  If  he  wish 
to  elucidate  certain  social,  scientific,  and  psychological  prob- 
lems for  the  common  good,  it  is  essential  that  he  should  in 
the  first  case  state  them.  In  that  event,  say  some  pedants, 
he  must  confine  himself  to  treatises  of  the  accepted  form. 
But  the  author  answers  no,  for  such  treatises  would  not 
reach  the  greater  number,  and  his  purpose  would  then 
remain  unfulfilled.  To  reach  them  he  must  approach  them 
in  the  only  literary  form  for  which  they  care:  he  must 
embody  his  views  in  novels.  "  I  have,  in  my  estimation," 
said  Zola,  "certain  contributions  to  make  to  the  thought 
of  the  world  on  certain  subjects,  and  I  have  chosen  the 


348    &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

novel  as  the  best  means  of  communication.  To  tell  me 
that  I  must  not  do  so  is  nonsense.  I  claim  it  as  my  right, 
and  who  are  you  to  gainsay  it?" 

But  let  us  pass  to  another  point  The  oft-repeated  asser- 
tion that  Zola  confined  himself  to  portraying  the  ulcers 
and  sores  of  life  is  contrary  to  fact  He  undoubtedly  found 
more  evil  than  good  in  the  community,  and  he  insisted  on 
the  evil  because  it  was  that  which  needed  remedying.  But 
he  blamed  nobody  for  extolling  the  higher  side  of  life.  He 
denounced  the  writers  who  cast  a  deceptive  and  often 
poisonous  glamour  over  the  imperfections  of  the  world,  he 
railed  at  many  of  the  people  who  pretended  to  be  very 
good,  for  he  was  not  deceived  by  hypocrisy  and  cant ;  but, 
at  the  same  time,  he  never  held  that  mankind  was  naturally 
evil.  He  attributed  its  blemishes  to  its  social  systems,  its 
superstitions,  the  thousand  fallacies  amid  which  it  was 
reared,  and  his  whole  life  was  a  battle  with  those  fallacies, 
those  superstitions,  and  those  systems. 

As  he  contended  against  so  many  generally  accepted 
opinions  it  was  inevitable  that  his  work  and  even  his  pur- 
pose should  be  greatly  misjudged.  Critics  took  in  turn  one 
and  another  volume  of  his  Rougon-Macquart  series,  and  pro- 
nounced condemnation  on  it  It  was  only  when,  after  long 
years,  the  series  was  at  last  finished  that  some  little  justice 
was  shown  to  the  author.  It  should  be  remembered  that 
no  volume  of  the  series  is  in  itself  a  really  complete  work. 
The  series  indeed  is  the  book,  the  volumes  are  but  chapters 
of  it.  Besides,  they  ought  not  to  be  taken  nowadays 
in  the  order  in  which  they  were  originally  published.  It 
occasionally  happens  that  writers  are  unable  to  produce 
their  works  in  proper  sequence.  There  have  been  instances 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE  349 

when  the  second  and  fourth  volumes  of  some  literary  under- 
taking have  been  published  before  the  first  and  the  third. 
So  it  was  with  the  Kougon-Macquart  novels.  Zola  was  no 
walking  encyclopaedia.  Every  now  and  again  it  happened 
that  he  was  not  ready  for  the  volume  which  by  rights 
should  have  followed  the  one  he  had  just  finished.  He 
lacked,  at  the  moment,  sufficient  knowledge  of  the  subject 
which  that  next  volume  was  to  embrace.  Or  else,  as  also 
happened  at  times,  his  fancy  or  his  feelings  or  some  combi- 
nation of  circumstances  carried  him  onward,  inducing  him 
to  skip  a  volume  for  a  time.  But  he  always  reverted  to  it 
afterwards,  like  an  author  who,  writing  not  twenty  volumes, 
but  one,  has  passed  over  some  troublesome  chapter,  yet 
harks  back  and  writes  it  at  last,  well  knowing  that  his  work 
will  lack  completeness  and  intelligibility  if  the  gap  be  not 
filled  up. 

In  the  chronicle  of  Zola's  career  given  in  our  previous 
chapters,  the  Bougon-Macquart  volumes  have  "been  men- 
tioned in  their  chronological  order ;  but  the  example  of  the 
critics  who,  even  since  the  completion  of  the  series,  have 
followed  that  same  order  in  judging  Zola's  work  is  not  one 
to  imitate.  By  adopting  that  system  one  may  certainly 
trace  the  variations  in  Zola's  general  style  over  a  term  of 
years ;  but  if  the  series  is  to  be  judged  as  a  whole  one  must 
take  its  sections  in  the  order  in  which  the  author  himself 
desired  they  should  be  read.  This  he  indicated  in  "Le 
Docteur  Pascal/'  and  confirmed  by  word  of  mouth  to  the 
present  writer;  and  it  is  unfortunate,  perhaps,  that  the 
French  publishers  should  still  "  list  *  the  volumes  chrono- 
logically, thereby  leading  many  readers  astray.  Some  vol- 
umes of  course  —  notably  the  first  and  the  last  —  occupy 


350     tMJLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

their  proper  places  in  the  lists,  but  others  have  to  be  taken 
in  a  very  different  order. 

Before  passing  the  series  in  review  one  may  say  a  few 
words  respecting  the  two  names,  Rougon  and  Macquart, 
which,  linked  together,  have  supplied  it  with  a  general 
title.  Some  years  ago  those  names  were  noticed  by  the 
present  writer  in  sundry  old  documents  relating  to  an 
abbey  in  Champagne,  but  Zola  declared  them  to  be  com- 
mon names  in  Provence.  As  for  Macquart  —  long  famil- 
iar to  Parisians  in  connection  with  the  knacker's  trade  — 
it  is  a  suggestive  circumstance  that  in  Zola's  younger 
days  there  was  a  bookseller  at  Aix,  named  Makaire, 
whom  he  may  well  have  known.  Makaire,  of  course  is 
merely  a  variant  of  Macaire;  and  it  is  not  necessary  to 
be  familiar  with  the  famous  "  Auberge  des  Adrets,M  and  the 
wonderful  impersonation  of  Fr£d£rick  Lemaitre,  to  know 
that  "Robert  Macaire"  is  regarded  by  the  French  as  a  type 
of  braggart  rascal,  as  cynical,  as  impudent  as  "Tartuffe"  is 
hypocritical  and  sneakish.  Zola,  then,  in  the  writer's 
opinion,  adopted  that  vulgar  name  Macquart  because  it 
resembled  Macaire,  and  put  Eougon  before  it  in  lieu  of 
Robert.  He  pictured  the  Rougon-Macquarts  as  the  Robert- 
Macaires  of  the  Second  Empire,  and  the  idea  came  to 
him,  perhaps,  the  more  readily  as  Napoleon  III.  had  been 
repeatedly  caricatured  as  Robert  Macaire,  a  brazen  knave 
repeating  abracadalrant  axioms  amid  the  applause  of  his 
followers.  Thus  the  title  of  the  Rougon-Macq[uarts,  if  taken 
as  synonymous  with  the  Robert-Macaires,  will  suffice  to 
explain  a  good  deal  of  Zola's  series. 

Let  us  now  glance  at  the  volumes.  In  "  La  Fortune  des 
Rougon  "  (I)  the  author  describes  the  origin  of  the  Rougons 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEE    351 

and  the  Macqiiarts.  One  Adelaide  Fouque,  a  woman  of 
hysterical  nature  who  eventually  goes  mad,  —  a  variety 
of  disorders  being  transmitted  to  most  of  her  descendants,  — 
marries  a  man  named  Eougon,  and  on  his  death  lives  with 
another  named  Macquart.  By  the  former  she  has  a  son, 
Pierre  Eougon  ;  "by  the  latter  a  son,  Antoine,  and  a  daughter, 
TJrsule  Macquart  This  daughter  marries  a  hatter  named 
Motiret,  and  thus  at  the  outset  of  the  series  the  second 
generation  of  the  family  is  shown  divided  into  three 
"branches*  In  the  third  generation  it  increases  to  eleven 
members ;  In  the  fourth  to  thirteen.  In  the  fifth  it  dwindles, 
Its  vitiated  energies  now  being  largely  spent ;  and  though, 
there  are  indications  of  its  continuance  in  sundry  children 
who  do  not  appear  on  the  scene,  the  hope  o?  regeneration 
rests  virtually  in  only  one  child,  a  boy  three  months  old 
when  the  curtain  finally  descends.  In  "  La  Fortune  des 
Eougon,"  then,  we  are  shown  old  Adelaide  Fouque,  her  chil- 
dren and  some  of  theirs,  all  more  or  less  poverty-stricken 
and  striving  for  wealth,  which  comes  with  the  foundation 
of  the  Second  Empire.  The  scene  is  laid  at  Plassans  — 
Aix,  as  was  formerly  explained  —  and  one  sees  the  Imperial 
rSffime  established  there  by  craft  and  bloodshed. 

Next  comes  "Son  Excellence  Eugfene  Eougon"  (II) 
which  carries  one  to  Paris,  where  the  fortunes  of  the  eldest 
of  the  Eougon  brothers,  first  an  advocate  and  at  last  an 
all-powerful  minister  of  state,  are  followed  in  official  and 
political  circles.  The  court  of  Napoleon  III  appears  at  the 
Tuileries  and  at  Compfegne,  where  one  meets,  among  others, 
a  beautiful  Italian  adventuress,  Clorinde  Balbi — suggestive 
of  the  notorious  Countess  de  Castiglione  —  with  a  mother 
reminiscent  of  Madame  de  Montijo.  And  in  other  chapters 


352  SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

of  the  volume  the  scheming  and  plotting  of  the  reign,  the 
official  jobbery  and  corruption,  are  traced  for  several  years. 

"La  Curfe"  (III)  follows,  and  one  turns  to  Eugene 
Rougon's  younger  brother,  Aristide,  who  has  assumed  the 
pseudonym  of  Saecard.  With  him  the  reader  joins  in  the 
great  rush  for  the  spoils  of  the  new  regime.  A  passion  for 
money  and  enjoyment  seizes  on  one  and  all,  debauchery 
reigns  in  society,  and  a  fever  of  reckless  speculation  is 
kindled  by  the  transformation  of  Paris  under  Baron  Hauss- 
mann  and  his  acolytes.  Men  and  women  sell  themselves. 
Ren^e,  Saceard's  second  wife,  passes  from  mere  adultery  to 
incest,  becoming  a  modern  Phaedra,  while  Saccard  himself 
leads  the  life  of  an  eager,  gluttonous  bird  of  prey,  which  he 
continues  in  the  ensuing  volume,  "  L'Argent "  (IV),  where 
the  Bourse  —  the  money-market — is  shown  with  all  its 
gambling,  its  thousand  tricks  and  frauds. 

So  far  the  series  might  seem  a  mere  record  of  roguery, 
vice,  and  corruption,  but  those  who  know  the  books  are 
aware  that  such  is  not  the  case.  Silvfcre  and  Miette  stand 
for  love  and  all  the  better  qualities  of  humanity  in  the  first 
volume;  there  are  at  least  the  Martinets  and  the  Berauds 
in  the  second  and  third ;  and  the  devoted  Madame  Caroline, 
the  honest  Hamelin,  the  pious  Princess  d'Orviedo,  the 
dreamy,  generous-hearted  Sigismond,  the  loving  Jordans, 
and  the  unfortunate  Mazaud,  all  figure  in  the  fourth,  amid 
the  scramble  for  gold  in  which  the  other  characters 
participate. 

In  sharp  contrast  with  that  greed  for  gain  is  the  picture 
offered  by  the  next  volume,  "Le  R§ve"  (V),  where  an  im- 
maculate lily  arises  from  the  hot-bed  of  vice,  whence  later, 
and  as  a  further  contrast,  a  type  of  foul  shamelessness, 


Photo  by  femiie  Zola 


Denise    and    Jacques 


SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOKMEE  353 

Nana,  the  harlot,  is  also  to  spring.  But  it  is  best  not  to 
anticipate-  In  the  first  four  volumes  the  Kougons,  under 
the  influence  of  heredity  and  surroundings,  have  shown 
themselves  scoundrels,  whereas  in  Ang41ique,  the  heroine  of 
*  Le  K£ve,"  a  girl  of  their  blood  appears  who  is  all  purity 
and  candour.  She  comes  upon  the  scene,  precisely  at  this 
moment,  to  emphasise  the  author's  conviction  that,  whatever 
he  may  have  had  to  depict  in  his  solicitude  for  truth,  all 
is  not  vice,  degradation,  and  materialism,  that  there  are  other 
aspirations  in  life  besides  the  thirst  for  wealth,  enjoyment 
and  power.  And  here,  too,  the  priesthood  is  shown  in  its 
better  aspect:  the  good  Abb4  Cornille,  the  proud,  heart- 
broken Bishop  d'Hautecoeur,  in  contrast  with  whom  the 
scheming,  unscrupulous  Abb£  Faujas  appears  in  the  next 
section  of  the  series. 

This  is  "La  Conqu§te  de  Plassans"  (VI)  which  retains 
one  in  the  provinces  (whither  one  is  carried  from  Paris 
in  "  Le  B§ve  "),  and  one  is  confronted  by  a  carefully  painted 
picture  of  middle-class  society  in  a  small  town,  this  in  its 
turn  contrasting  with  the  previous  pictures  of  life  in  Paris. 
And  now  the  baleful  results  which  may  attend  marriages 
between  cousins  are  exemplified.  Marthe  Eougon  has 
married  Frangois  Mouret,  and  both  have  inherited  lesions 
from  their  common  ancestress,  Adelaide  Fouque.  One  of 
their  children,  D£sir£e,  physically  strong  and  healthy,  is 
mentally  an  "  innocent " ;  and  they  themselves  are  unhinged, 
the  workings  of  their  heredity  being  accentuated  and 
hastened  by  the  wiles  of  Faujas,  the  priest,  who  gains 
access  to  their  home.  He  is  a  secret  agent  of  the  imperial 
government,  and  thus  one  again  sees  the  Empire  at  work  in 
the  provinces,  utilising  the  clergy  to  enforce  its  authority, 

23 


354    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

and  as  often  as  not  betrayed  by  it  IE  the  end  all  collapses. 
The  maddened  Mouret  sets  fire  to  his  home  and  perishes 
in  the  flames  with  AbW  Faiijas,  while  Marfche  dies  of  a 
disorder  springing  from  her  inherited  hysteria. 

Then,  the  middle  class  of  the  provinces  having  been 
sketched,  that  of  the  metropolis  is  depicted  with  an  unspar- 
ing hand.  The  career  of  the  Mourets'  eldest  son,  Octave,  is 
followed,  first  through  the  pages  of  "  Pot-Bouille  "  (VII),  in 
which  he  appears  as  a  kind  of  modern  Don  Juan,  a  Don 
Juan  stripped  of  all  poetry,  all  glamour,  a  sensualist  of  our 
great  cities,  the  man  who  prowls,  not  among  the  unhappy 
creatures  of  the  streets,  but  among  the  women  of  outward 
respectability  who  may  help  him  to  acquire  position  and 
fortune.  The  scene  is  laid  in  a  house  of  the  Rue  de 
Ghoiseul,  in  the  centre  of  Paris;  and  all  around  Octave 
gravitate  depraved,  venal,  egotistical,  and  sickly  beings, 
adulterous  households,  unscrupulous  match-making  mothers, 
dmi-werge$  who  will  only  marry  for  money,  dowry  hunters, 
slatternly  servant  girls,  and  that  type  of  the  middle-class 
debauchee  who  makes  those  girls  his  prey.  And  the  pleas- 
ing figures  in  the  work  are  few  —  poor  old  Josserand,  for 
instance,  and  the  charming  Madame  H^douin,  with  the 
prosperous  author  on  the  first  floor,  who  drives  in  his  car- 
riage and  has  two  handsome  children.  At  the  same  time 
the  book  pours  a  stream  of  light  first  on  all  the  ignoble 
shifts  to  which  middle-class  folk  of  small  means  are  put  in 
their  insane  endeavours  to  ape  their  wealthier  neighbours, 
and  secondly  on  the  evils  that  arise  from  that  dowry  system 
which  superficial  people  regard  as  proving  the  foresight  and 
wisdom  of  the  French  when  they  embark  on  the  sea  of 
matrimony.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  it  frequently  happens 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMER    355 

that  this  dowry  system  entirely  blights  married  life.  As 
often  as  not  the  dowry  itself  is  a  mere  snare  and  delusion 
—  the  bride's  parents  retaining  the  principal,  and  merely 
serving  the  interest  until  their  death,  when,  as  in  the  case 
of  Zola's  old  Vabre,  the  parental  fortune  may  have  entirely 
disappeared ! 

In  "Au  Bonheur  des  Dames"  (VIII)  Octave  Mourefe 
appears  again,  a  sensualist  still  but  also  a  man  of  enter- 
prise, at  the  head  of  a  a  Grand  Magasin  de  Nouveaut^s,"  a 
Temple  of  Temptation,  which  revolutionises  trade  and  pan- 
ders to  the  feminine  love  of  finery.  Here  the  bourgeoisie  IB 
shown  elbowing  the  class  immediately  below  it,  a  world  of 
employes,  clerks,  shopmen  and  shop-girls,  whose  lives,  like- 
wise, are  full  of  evil.  But  again  a  girl  of  admirable  recti- 
tude, Denise  Baudu,  comes  forward  to  illumine  the  novelist's 
pages,  and  redeem  and  ennoble  the  man  who  has  hitherto 
regarded  her  sex  as  an  instrument  or  a  toy. 

When  Zola  has  cast  Octave  Mouret  at  the  feet  of  Denise, 
thereby  exemplifying  a  pure  woman's  influence  over  man, 
he  again  transfers  his  scene  from  bustling  Paris  to  a  lonely 
region  of  the  southern  provinces,  there  to  follow  the  career 
of  Octave's  brother,  Serge.  In  "La  Faute  de  I'AtiW  Mouret" 
(IX)  the  battle  is  again  one  between  woman,  love,  and 
man;  but  a  new  factor  appears — religion  —  for  Serge  is 
a  priest,  bound  by  the  unnatural  vow  of  his  calling,  one  of 
hysterical,  mystical  temperament  also,  enslaved  by  the 
superstitions  of  his  creed.  In  his  tumble-down  parsonage 
and  his  little,  decaying,  forsaken  church,  amid  a  semi-savage, 
brutish  peasantry,  he  long  strives  to  resist  the  cry  of  nature. 
But  she  at  last  asserts  her  might,  and  the  novelist  carries 
the  reader  into  the  enchanted  garden  of  the  Paradou,  where 


356     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

love  reigns  supreme.  Yet  the  golden  hours  are  brief :  the 
priest  is  recalled  to  his  religion  of  death,  and  he  cannot 
resist  the  call,  for  all  the  training  of  years  which  has  con- 
firmed and  increased  his  mystical  tendency  comes  back, 
and  he  is  helpless.  Thus  the  natural  life  is  forsaken  for 
the  illusions  and  dogmas  of  a  creed;  and  Albine,  whom 
Serge  has  loved,  is  left  forlorn  with  her  unborn  babe,  to  lie 
down  and  die  amid  the  perfume  of  the  flowers  with  which 
she  has  strewn  her  bed.  Serge  it  is  who  casts  the  symboli- 
cal pinch  of  earth  upon  her  coffin,  for  he  has  resumed  his 
ministry  among  the  brutish  peasants,  dedicating  all  his 
efforts  to  slay  the  sex  given  him  by  his  God,  for  instead  of 
living  as  a  man  he  must  obey  the  command  of  his  Church 
and  live  as  an  eunuch. 

After  that  battle  with  nature  and  love,  there  comes  a 
companion  picture:  the  fall  of  Hfldne  Mouret  in  "Une 
Page  d* Amour n  (X)<  She  has  hitherto  led  an  absolutely 
blameless  life,  but  a  sudden  passion  sweeps  her  off  her  feet* 
A  tragic  sombreness  attends  the  episode.  No  glamour  is 
cast  over  woman's  frailty  in  Zola's  pages.  If  H£13ne  tastes 
an  hour  of  intoxication  she  is  punished  for  it  as  frightfully 
as  any  moralist  could  desire.  Jeanne,  her  fondly  loved 
daughter,  who  is  devoured  by  jealous  hysteria,  dies  as  the 
result  of  her  lapse ;  and  it  is  only  afterwards,  in  pity  as  it 
were,  that  H^lfene  is  granted  the  chance  of  beginning  her 
life  afresh. 

Then  the  series  continues.  All  the  Rougons  —  excepting 
one,  Pascal,  whom  the  novelist  keeps  back  till  the  end  — 
have  now  been  dealt  with,  the  Mourets  also,  and  the  chronicle 
of  the  bastard  Macquart  branch  begins.  Antoine  Macquart 
has  three  children,  Lisa,  Gervaise,  and  Jean,  and  it  is  Lisa 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEB       357 

who  supplies  the  next  volume  of  the  series,  *  Le  Yentre  da 
Paris'*  (XI),  which  carries  one  through  and  around  the 
great  markets  of  the  French  metropolis,  as  well  as  into  the 
fine  pork-butcher's  shop,  which  Lisa  keeps  with  her  hus- 
hand,  Quenu.  This  is  a  volume  redolent  of  victuals  cer- 
tainly, marked  also  by  the  egotism  of  the  shopkeeping 
and  petty  trading  classes,  with  yet  a  glimpse  of  one  of 
those  conspiracies  which  were  frequent  in  the  time  of 
Napoleon  III,  and  a  backward  glance  at  the  coup  d'etat  by 
which  that  sovereign  had  risen  to  power.  The  chief  figure 
in  the  story  is  Quenu's  brother,  the  unhappy  Florent,  who 
has  escaped  from  Cayenne,  and  whom  lisa,  that  comfortable 
egotist,  ends  by  betraying  to  the  authorities.  For  that  ultra- 
righteous  deed, — counselled  by  Lisa's  confessor,  —  and  for 
the  savagery  of  all  the  fat  fishwives,  one  is  consoled  by 
the  presence  of  honest  Madame  Frangois  and  of  Cadine,  the 
little  flower-girl,  and  Marjolin,  her  youthful  lover,  whose 
smile  brightens  many  a  page. 

Then,  in  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre  "  (XII),  comes  Pauline,  whose 
nature  is  so  different  from  that  of  her  mother,  Lisa.  She 
has  no  egotism  in  her  composition;  she  would  never  betray 
anybody ;  she  is  all  human  devotion  and  self-sacrifice.  With 
her  we  are  carried  to  the  seashore,  to  a  little  fisher  hamlet, 
where  her  guardian  Chanteau  dwells ;  and  he,  his  wife,  and 
his  son  prey  upon  her,  wrecking  her  life,  though  she  remains 
brave  and  smiling  till  the  end.  And  how  little  joy  there 
may  be  in  life  is  shown  not  only  by  her  case,  but  by  that  of 
the  crippled  Chanteau,  his  embittered,  covetous,  suspicious 
wife,  his  jealous  servant,  and  his  weak-minded  son,  who 
tries  to  be  this  and  that,  but  succeeds  in  nothing  and  is 
consumed  by  a  foolish,  unreasoning  dread  of  death.  It  is  to 


858    EMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

these  that  Pauline  has  to  minister,  for  these  that  she  has  to 
sacrifice  herself,  even  as  it  often  happens  that  the  good 
have  to  lay  down  their  lives  for  the  unworthy. 

Pauline,  one  has  said,  is  very  different  from  her  mother, 
Lisa.  Equally  different  is  Lisa's  sister,  Gervaise,  the  pa- 
thetic heroine  of  "  L'Assommoir "  (XIII),  with  which  the 
family  chronicle  is  continued.  Lisa  rises,  Gervaise  falls; 
so  does  it  happen  in  many  of  the  world's  families.  Zola  has 
now  descended  through  several  strata  of  society,  and  has 
come  to  the  working  classes.  A  deep  pathos  lies  beneath 
the  picture  he  traces  of  them  under  the  bane  of  drink.  At 
first  Gervaise  appears  so  courageous  amid  her  misfortunes 
that  one  can  readily  grant  her  the  compassionate  sympathy 
accorded  to  every  trusting  woman  whom  a  coward  abandons. 
There  seems  hope  for  her  at  the  outset  of  her  marriage  with 
Goupeau;  a  possibility,  too,  that  she  may  prove  successful 
when,  industrious  and  energetic,  she  starts  her  little  laundry 
business.  But  her  husband's  lazy,  drunken  ways  recoil  on 
her,  the  return  of  the  rascally  Lantier  completes  her  mis- 
fortune, and  then  she  rolls  down  hill,  to  die  at  last  of 
starvation.  The  stage  of  "  L'Assommoir "  is  crowded  with 
typical  figures,  some  of  them  perchance  imperishable,  for 
their  names  have  passed  into  the  French  language  to  serve 
as  designations  for  one  and  another  degraded  character  that 
one  encounters  in  every-day  life.  Yet  all  the  personages  of 
Zola's  work  are  not  depraved.  Even  in  this  dark  book 
there  are  a  few  who  point  to  the  brighter  side  of  human 
nature,  honest  Goujet,  for  instance,  and  Lalie,  the  poor, 
pitiful  "little  mother."  Gervaise  and  Coupeau  themselves 
are  not  wholly  vile.  In  the  midst  of  their  degradation, 
when  she  prowls  the  boulevard  in  the  snow,  when  he  is 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    359 

dancing  madly  in  his  padded  cell,  one  instinctively  retraces 
their  careers  hack  to  the  early  days  when  hoth  had  looked 
so  hopefully  on  life ;  and  one  recognises  that  a  fatal  environ- 
ment, more  than  natural  worthlessness,  has  heen  the  great 
cause  of  their  downfall. 

Nana  already  appears  —  in  her  childhood  and  her  youth 
—  in  the  pages  of  "  L'  Assommoir,"  hut  Zola  does  not  pass 
direct  from  that  work  to  the  later  career  of  Gervaise's 
daughter.  He  first  takes  Gervaise's  elder  children,  her  sons 
by  Lantier ;  and  "  L'CEuvre  "  (XIV)  unfolds  the  painful  story 
of  Claude,  the  painter,  a  glimpse  of  whom  has  been  given 
previously  in  "  Le  Ventre  de  Paris."  Again  in  "  L'CEuvre," 
one  finds  a  record  of  downfall,  but,  whereas  in  "  L* Assom- 
moir "  it  has  largely  resulted  from  environment  and  circum- 
stances, it  now  proceeds  more  directly  from  an  evil  heredity. 
Claude  stands  virtually  on  the  border  line  that  parts  insanity 
from  genius,  and  thus  in  his  career,  the  old  hypotheses  of 
Moreau  of  Tours,  and  those  subsequently  enunciated  in 
England  by  Nesbit,  might  find  play.  In  the  end,  after  a 
life  of  conflict  and  misery,  insanity  triumphs  and  Claude 
destroys  himself.  His  tale,  as  one  has  stated  previously, 
is  linked  with  a  picture  of  the  French  art-world  Fortu- 
nately a  current  of  human  interest  flows  through  the  book, 
for  beside  Claude  the  unhappy  Christine,  his  wife,  appears : 
she,  like  Gervaise,  at  first  being  a  good,  true,  and  courageous 
woman,  one  who  commits  the  irremediable  mistake  of  link- 
ing her  life  with  that  of  a  man  fated  to  failure  and  insanity. 

In  these  last  sections  of  Zola's  series  the  march  of  de- 
generescence  is  hastened ;  downfall  follows  downfall ;  before 
long  that  of  individuals  is  to  be  succeeded  by  a  supreme 
collapse,  that  of  the  regime  under  which  they  live.  Thus, 


3t)U    EMILE  ZOLA,   NOVELIST  AND   KEFOKMEK 

after  "L'OEuvre,"  comes  "La  B£te  Humaine"  (XV),  Claude's 
brother  Jacques,  an  engine-driver,  in  whom  a  murderer 
appears  among  the  Kougon-Macquarts.  The  hereditary 
virus,  transmitted  from  Adelaide  Fouque,  has  turned  in  him 
to  an  insensate  craving  for  woman's  blood,  and,  frankly,  his 
story  is  horrible.  At  the  same  time,  while  one  follows  the 
growth  of  his  abominable  disease,  many  a  vivid  page  arrests 
attention:  awful,  yet  a  masterpiece  of  colloquial  narrative 
and  full  of  a  penetrating  psychology,  is  Severine's  account 
of  the  murder  of  President  Grandmorin;  very  human  is 
Jacques'  love  for  his  engine,  La  Lison ;  and  striking  are  the 
pictures  of  the  snowstorm,  the  railway  accident,  and  the 
death  of  Jacques  and  the  stoker  Pecqueux,  at  the  end  of 
the  volume,  when  their  train,  crowded  with  soldiers,  is 
seen  rushing  driverless,  like  some  great,  maddened,  blind 
beast,  towards  catastrophe  and  annihilation. 

Next  the  story  of  Gervaise'a  third  son,  fitienne,  is  unfolded 
in  "  Germinal  "•  (XVI),  this  again  a  tale  of  the  workers,  the 
hardships,  the  misery,  the  degradation  of  the  sweated  toilers 
of  the  coal-pits,  who  are  maddened  by  want  to  revolt.  And 
then,  of  course,  they  are  shot  down  by  the  soldiers  at  the 
disposal  of  the  capitalists  who  batten  on  the  sufferings  of 
labour.  A  tribute  of  compassion,  a  call  for  justice,  a  cry 
of  warning  to  the  rich  and  powerful  —  such,  as  Zola  himself 
said,  is  "  Germinal.1'  Those  who  wonder  at  the  hatred  of 
the  workers  for  those  above  them,  at  the  spread  of  socialism 
throughout  France,  need  merely  read  his  pages  to  under- 
stand why  and  how  such  things  have  come  to  pass. 

But  "Nana  "  (XVII)  now  confronts  the  reader.  He  has 
just  passed  through  the  world  of  labour :  drunkenness,  degra- 
dation, insanity,  crime,  revolution  have  been  indicated  sue- 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE    361 

cessively  as  resultants  of  the  condition  of  the  masses ;  and 
here  comes  another  product  of  an  evil  social  system,  the 
low-born  harlot  who,  like  an  unconscious  instrument  of 
retribution,  ascends  from  her  native  dung-heap  to  poison 
the  bourgeoisie  and  aristocracy — the  rulers,  the  law-givers, 
to  whom  the  existence  of  that  dung-heap  and  its  evil 
ferments  is  due.  In  "Nana"  depravity  coruscates.  Here 
is  the  so-called  "  life  of  pleasure  "  of  the  world's  great  cities, 
the  life  of  indulgence  which  recruits  its  votaries  among  all 
the  aristocracies,  all  the  plutocracies,  all  the  bourgeoisies, 
all  the  bohemias.  To  some,  Nana  may  seem  to  be  "  a  scourge 
of  God  "  — assuredly  the  world's  Nanas  have  wrought  more 
evil  than  its  Attilas  —  "  a  punishment  on  men  for  their  lewd 
and  lawless  sensuality,"  In  Zola's  pages  one  does  not  wit- 
ness merely  the  ruin  and  disgrace  of  the  professedly  profli- 
gate ;  one  sees  also  how  natural,  youthful  desire  when  exposed 
to  temptation  may  ripen  into  depravity  and  end  in  misery. 
One  sees,  again,  the  reflex  action  of  libertinism  on  married 
life  —  how  wives  end  at  times  by  following  the  example  of 
their  husbands,  and  even  "  bettering  the  instruction." l  From 
first  to  last  this  much-maligned  book  is  a  stupendous  warn- 
ing for  both  sexes,  as  great  a  denunciation  of  the  social  evil 
as  ever  was  penned. 

But  the  scene  changes,  and  in  "La  Terre"  (XVIII)  appears 
Jean  Macquart,  soldier  and  artisan,  who  becomes  a  peasant 
He,  though  a  brother  of  Gervaise,  has  escaped  the  hereditary 
taint,  is  strong,  sensible,  hardworking,  a  man  destined,  one 
might  think,  to  a  life  of  useful  and  happy  obscurity.  But 
fate  casts  him  among  the  Fouans,  a  family  of  untutored 

1  See  a  clever  study  of  "Nana,"  by  H.  Schutz- Wilson  in  the  "  New  Cen- 
tury Review,"  Vol.  V,  No.  26,  February,  1899. 


362    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

peasants,  barely  raised  above  animality;  and  a  drama  of 
savage  greed  and  egotism  is  unfolded  around  him.  Old 
Fouan,  being  no  longer  able  to  till  his  fields  himself,  divides 
his  property  among  his  children,  who  agree  to  make  him 
an  allowance.  But  he  is  cheated,  ill-treated,  robbed  of  his 
savings  by  them,  and  finally  murdered  by  one  of  his  sons. 
That  same  son,  Buteau,  is  consumed  by  a  ravenous  earth- 
hunger,  but  animal  desire  is  also  strong  within  him.  He  is 
both  enamoured  and  jealous  of  his  wife's  sister,  Frangoise, 
who  is  Jean  Macquart's  wife,  his  passion  for  her  being 
blended  with  a  craving  to  appropriate  her  land.  At  last 
she,  by  violence,  becomes  his  victim,  and  in  a  struggle  with 
her  sister,  who  is  present,  is  thrown  upon  a  scythe  and 
mortally  injured.  That  crime  is  witnessed  by  old  Fouan, 
and  it  is  for  fear  lest  he  should  reveal  it  that  he  is  stifled — 
then,  burnt. 

From  "  La  Terre  "  Jean  Macquart  passes  to  "  La  D^Mcle  n 
(XIX),  for  the  time  has  now  come  for  the  great  smash-up 
of  that  Empire  all  tinsel  without  and  all  rottenness  within. 
War  and  invasion  descend  upon  France.  You  follow  the 
retreating  soldiers  from  the  Rhine  to  the  Meuse,  on  that 
terrible,  woeful  march  to  Sedan,  where  all  becomes  disaster. 
You  see  the  wretched  Emperor  borne  along  in  the  baggage 
train  of  his  army,  carried,  it  was  thought,  to  certain  death 
in  the  hope  that  France  might  then  forgive,  and  allow  his 
son  to  reign.  And  you  see  him  under  fire,  vainly  courting 
death,  which  will  not  take  him.  Then  the  horrors  of 
Bazeilles,  the  struggle  for  the  Calvary,  the  great  charge,  the 
hoisting  of  the  white  flag,  the  truce,  and  the  abject  surrender 
follow  in  swift  succession.  Next  comes  the  battlefield  after 
the  slaughter,  with  the  dreadful  Camp  of  Misery,  and  later, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  363 

the  efforts  of  the  National  Defence,  the  peace  imposed 
on  the  vanquished,  and  then  the  Commune's  horrors  crown- 
ing all.  But  from  first  to  last  human  interest  is  never 
absent :  one  finds  it  in  the  friendship  of  Jean  for  the  unlucky 
and  degenerate  Maurice,  in  the  story  of  Silvine  and  Prosper, 
in  the  bravery  of  Weiss,  the  heroism  of  Henriette,  Jean's 
love  for  her,  and  the  hope  that  both,  hereafter,  may  be  able 
to  begin  life  afresh  and  together,  a  hope  which  is  blasted  by 
the  fatality  of  civil  war,  when  brother  rushes  on  brother 
and  blindly  slays  him. 

At  last  comes  "Le  Docteur  Pascal"  (XX),  the  zealous 
scientist  who  sits  in  judgment  on  his  family.  You  see  him 
among  his  documents,  sifting  evidence,  explaining  the 
heredity  of  one  and  another  relative,  expounding  the  whole 
theory  of  atavism  which  underlies  Zola's  series.  The  old 
ancestress,  Adelaide  Fouque,  is  still  alive,  a  centenarian, 
mad,  confined  for  many  years  in  a  lunatic  asylum.  Her 
son,  Antoine  Macquart,  also  survives,  still  an  unscrupulous 
knave  and  a  confirmed  drunkard,  until  spontaneous  com- 
bustion destroys  him,  while  hemorrhage  carries  off  little 
Charles,  the  last  delicate,  degenerate  scion  of  the  exhausted 
stock.  Pascal  himself  would  seem  to  have  escaped  the 
hereditary  taint;  but  after  a  long  life  of  celibacy,  spent 
in  the  study  and  practice  of  medicinei  his  passions  awaken, 
and  he  falls  in  love  with  Clotilde,  his  niece.  He  strives 
to  overcome  that  passion,  he  wishes  to  marry  the  girl  to  his 
friend  Ramond,  but  she  will  not  have  it  so,  and  in  her  turn 
becomes  a  temptress.  Then  the  impetuous  blood  of  the 
Rougons  masters  them  both,  and  they  fall  into  each  other's 
arms.  Previously,  old  Madame  F£Licitd,  Pascal's  mother, 
has  tried  to  use  Glotilde  as  an  instrument  to  effect  the 


364  SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

destruction  of  the  documents  which  the  doctor  has  collected, 
for  the  family  would  be  dishonoured  should  they  ever  see 
the  light  The  girl  has  also  tried  to  convert  Pascal  to  her 
own  religious  views ;  but  all  in  vain.  A  period  of  delirious 
folly  ensues,  Pascal  turns  prodigal  in  his  old  age,  and  is  at 
last  brought  to  ruin  by  a  dishonest  notary.  Then  Olotilde 
and  he  have  to  part,  and  he  dies,  struck  down  by  heart 
disease.  The  young  woman  survives  with  a  child,  his  son 
and  hers,  who,  perhaps,  may  yet  rejuvenate  the  dwindling 
race.  And  we  see  her  nursing  her  babe  and  indulging  in  a 
thousand  hopes,  as  the  curtain  at  last  descends  on  the  his- 
tory of  the  Rougon-Macquarts.1 

Such,  then,  is  Zola's  great  series :  one  work  in  twenty 
volumes,  in  whose  pages  appear  twelve  hundred  human 

1  In  our  summary  of  the  novels  we  have  left  the  scientific  questions  on 
one  side.  It  would  "be  impossible  to  deal  with  them  adequately  here,  and 
those  who  are  curious  on  the  subject  must  consult  "Le  Docteur  Pascal," 
from  which  we  venture  to  quote  just  one  paragraph,  which  indicates  Zola's 
views  in  a  general  way  ;  **  We  see  that  human  creatures  may  appear  radically 
different  one  from  another,  though  they  merely  typify  so  many  logical  modi- 
fications of  their  common  ancestors.  The  trunk  explains  the  branches,  and 
the  branches  explain  the  leaves.  Although  Saccard  and  Eugene  Rougon 
differ  so  much  in  temperament  and  mode  of  life,  the  same  impulsion  pro- 
duced the  former's  ravenous  appetites  and  the  latter's  sovereign  ambition. 
Angelique,  a  spotless  lily,  came  from  an  equivocal  creature  like  Sidonie,  for 
the  same  influence  determines  either  mysticism  or  sexual  passion  according  to 
environment.  In  the  case  of  Mouret's  children  the  inspiration  makes  an 
intelligent  man  like  Octave  a  millionaire  dealer  in  finery,  causes  Serge,  a 
believer,  to  become  a  poor  priest,  while  De'siree,  a  witless  creature,  develops 
into  a  physically  handsome  and  happy  girl.  .  .  .  But  the  neurosis  passes  to 
Gervaise's  children,  and  ETana  sells  herself,  iStienne  rebels,  Jacques  murders, 
and  Claude  is  endowed  with  a  measure  of  genius ;  while  Pauline,  their  cousin- 
german,  becomes  a  personification  of  victorious  rectitude,  a  battling  and  self- 
sacrificing  woman.  That  is  heredity,  life  itself,  which  produces  imbeciles, 
madmen,  criminals,  and  great  men.  Certain  cells  collapse,  others  take  their 
place,  and  a  rascal  or  a  raving  lunatic  appears  instead  of  a  genius  or  a  mere 
honest  man.  And  meantime  mankind  continues  rolling  onward,  carrying  all 
along  with  it." 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    365 

characters  besides  many  others,  such  as  La  Lison,  the 
engine  which  Jacques  Lantier  worships  and  which  seems 
to  be  endowed  with  life;  such,  too,  as  old  Bonhomme, 
Pascal's  horse;  Bataille  and  Trompette,  the  horses  of  the 
coal-pit ;  Zephyr,  who  falls  in  the  great  cavalry  charge  at 
Sedan ;  Mathieu  and  Bertrand,  the  two  big  dogs ;  Pologne, 
the  unlucky  rabbit ;  Minouche,  the  egotistical  cat ;  G&l6on, 
the  comical  donkey  who  gets  drunk  in  the  vintage  scene  of 
*  La  Terre" ;  C^sar,  the  great  bull  at  La  Borderie;  La  Coliche 
and  her  calves ;  Mathieu,  D^sirde's  pig ;  Alexandre,  her  big 
lusty  rooster,  and  a  score  of  others.  Zola  always  loved 
animals ;  he  put  them  into  his  books,  and  they  entered 
largely  into  his  life.  As  for  the  human  characters  of  his 
great  series  these  are  of  all  classes,  all  kinds.  Napoleon 
III  appears  in  various  volumes,  at  the  Tuileries,  at  Com- 
pifegne,  at  St.  Cloud,  and  again  and  again  during  the  war  of 
1870.  The  Empress  is  seen  also,  like  the  Duke  de  Morny 
and  other  high  personages  of  state.  Members  of  one  and 
another  aristocracy,  politicians  and  functionaries,  judges  and 
lawyers,  medical  men  and  other  scientists,  bishops  and  priests, 
generals  and  soldiers,  company  promoters,  speculators  and 
shareholders,  schoolmasters  and  revolutionaries,  lourgeois 
of  Paris  and  the  provinces,  artists  and  shopkeepers,  street 
hawkers,  peasants  and  miners,  workmen  of  innumerable 
callings,  pass  across  Zola's  stage.  The  reader  enters  the 
homes  of  all  those  classes ;  he  goes  from  the  palace  to  the 
hovel,  from  the  dancing-hall  to  the  coal-pit,  from  the  cathe- 
dral to  the  boozing-ken,  from  the  artist's  studio  to  the  Cham- 
ber of  Deputies,  from  the  great  drapery  shop  to  the  harlot's 
boudoir ;  he  sees  Paris,  her  boulevards,  her  slums,  her  prome- 
nades, her  theatres,  her  quays,  under  twenty  different  aspects, 


366    ^JMILB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

at  dawn,  at  noon,  at  night,  in  shine  and  rain  and  snow ;  he 
travels  to  the  rocky  shore  of  a  "boisterous  and  predatory  sea ; 
he  finds  fairyland  in  the  magic  garden  of  the  Paradou ;  he 
roams  the  bleak  coal  country  of  the  north ;  he  is  buffeted  by 
the  mistral  and  scorched  by  the  blazing  sun  of  Provence ;  he 
gazes  on  La  Beauce,  an  ocean  of  waving  corn,  and  on  the 
battlefield  of  Sedan,  strewn  with  the  dead  and  dying.  Re- 
ligion, politics,  sociology,  art,  science,  trade,  agriculture, 
military  affairs,  life's  characteristics,  duties,  functions,  errors 
and  aims,  love,  marriage,  eating,  drinking,  and  a  hundred 
other  matters  are  discussed  before  him.  Beautiful  friend- 
ships, confiding  loves,  ardent  passions,  terrible  jealousies  and 
rivalries,  lofty  aspirations,  horrid  lusts,  generous  sacrifices, 
deeds  of  bravery  and  virtue,  cruelty  and  vengeance,  greed, 
craft,  and  cowardice, — in  a  word,  both  the  nobility  and  the 
mire  of  life  in  turn  confront  one,  in  such  wise  that  this 
Rougon-Macquart  series  is  like  a  miniature  world. 

It  has  been  previously  shown  that  Zola  began  to  study 
and  plan  the  series  in  the  middle  of  1868,  and  commenced 
his  first  volume  in  May,  1869.  For  some  seven  or  eight 
months,  during  the  war  of  1870-1871,  he  had  been  obliged 
to  set  his  work  aside,  but  apart  from  that  break  it  had  occu- 
pied the  greater  part  of  his  attention  during  all  the  years 
that  elapsed  until  «  Le  Docteur  Pascal "  appeared  in  1893. 
Every  year,  as  a  rule,  some  months  were  occupied  in  fram- 
ing a  new  volume,  then  several  were  given  to  the  actual 
writing  of  it.  In  the  first  instance  it  was  usually  necessary 
to  visit  places  and  people ;  and  in  some  cases  certain  branches 
of  the  chosen  subject  had  to  be  studied  in  books,  chiefly  of  a 
technical  nature.  This  brings  one  to  the  consideration  of 
a  legend  which  has  grown  up  around  Zola  and  much  of  his 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOBMER    367 

work.  It  has  been  assumed,  and  repeated  ad  nauseam,  by 
some  critics,  that  he  was  a  very  ignorant  man  with  little  or 
no  real  experience  of  life,  one  who,  aided  by  a  little  imagi- 
nation, concocted  his  books  out  of  others,,  basing  his  narra- 
tives entirely  on  printed  documents.  But  that  assumption 
is  fallacious.  It  was  helped  on,  certainly,  by  some  of  Zola's 
friends,  notably  by  Paul  Alexis,  who  in  his  account  of  the 
earlier  Eougon-Macquart  volumes  expatiated  at  length  on 
some  of  the  novelist's  sources  of  information.1  This  Alexis 
did  with  Zola's  sanction,  in  a  spirit  of  literary  honesty,  but 
his  insistence  on  the  subject  perverted  the  judgment  of 
several  critics,  in  such  wise  that  Zola  has  been  largely  de- 
scribed as  a  writer  who  acquired  his  information  merely  by 
cramming.  That  such  a  view  of  the  man  and  his  work  is 
erroneous  may  be  easily  shown. 

He  certainly  had  to  study  certain  subjects  in  books,  and 
rely,  occasionally,  on  information  given  him  by  friends,  but 
few  writers  ever  put  more  actual  experience  and  personal 
knowledge  into  their  works.  Even  his  original  acquaint- 
ance with  "  society "  was  more  considerable  than  some 
have  admitted.  In  Michelet's  drawing-room,  which  was 
the  first  he  frequented,  he  met,  it  is  true,  only  serious 
men,  while  Flaubert's  was  but  a  superlative  Bohemia ;  but 
in  Madame  Meurice's  salon,  to  which,  whatever  his  poverty, 
he  had  his  entrde  during  the  last  years  of  the  Empire,  he 
found  not  only  republicanism  and  literary  culture,  but  many 
of  the  graces  of  life,  a  high  standard  of  comfort  if  not  lux- 
ury, charming  women  who  added  a  touch  of  pleasant  frivol- 

1  The  writer  must  plead  guilty  to  having  unintentionally  assisted  tlie 
growth  of  the  legend  by  insisting  often  unduly  on  some  of  Zola's  "  quellen," 
m  his  introductions  to  the  English  translations  of  the  novelist's  books. 


368    tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

ity  to  the  serious  talk  of  the  older  men,  and  young  fellows 
in  good  circumstances,  whose  minds  were  more  intent  on 
amusement  than  politics  or  literature  or  art.  After  the  Em- 
pire his  favourite  salon  became  for  a  time  that  of  Madame 
Charpentier,  a  lady  of  culture,  whose  circle  of  acquaintance 
extended  far  beyond  literary  men  and  their  wives.  Among 
the  former,  be  it  noted,  were  academicians,  but  there  were 
also  statesmen,  —  Gambetta,  Jules  Ferry,  and  numerous 
others,  with  many  people  who,  in  one  way  or  another,  repre- 
sented the  new  Republican  society.  Another  drawing-room 
of  high  standing  in  Republican  Paris  which  Zola  frequented, 
was  that  of  Madame  Menard-Dorian. 

Besides,  his  experiences  during  the  Franco-German  war, 
when  he  became  secretary  to  Glais-Bizoin,  his  participa- 
tion in  newspaper  life,  his  position  as  parliamentary  cor- 
respondent to  "  La  Cloche,"  as  general  Paris  correspondent 
of  "Le  Semaphore"  of  Marseilles,  made  him  acquainted 
with  scores  of  people,  instructed  him  in  a  hundred  dif- 
ferent ways.  Further,  his  dramatic  efforts  brought  him 
in  contact  with  the  stage;  his  artistic  friendships  carried 
him  among  painters,  sculptors,  and  their  critics ;  his  inter- 
course with  the  Goncourts  led  him  occasionally  into  pecu- 
liar company,  like  that  of  Nina  de  Villars,  and  other 
semi-literary  women  of  questionable  repute;  the  dinner 
parties  with  the  Goncourts,  Flaubert,  and  Daudet  took 
him  to  restaurants  and  cafds  where  he  elbowed  the  flash 
set;  and  we  know  also  that  the  circumstances  of  his  early 
manhood  had  brought  him  in  touch  with  the  poor.  Finally, 
it  is  obvious  that  his  actual  experience  of  the  emotions  was 
large :  he  had  known  sorrow  in  many  forms ;  the  pangs  that 
come  from  defeat  and  contumely,  the  gloom  which  hope  de- 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    369 

ferred  casts  over  the  spirit,  followed  by  the  delight  which 
arises  at  an  unexpected  success.  No  doubt,  when  he  first 
planned  "Les  Eougon  Macquart,"  in  1868,  he  was  still  very 
imperfectly  equipped  for  his  selected  task ;  and  the  fact 
that  he  should  have  attempted  it  under  such  circumstances 
shows  that  he  possessed  more  than  the  usual  amount  of  con- 
fidence that  a  young  man  usually  places  in  his  powers.  But 
his  experiences  during  the  next  four  or  five  years  altered 
everything,  for  they  greatly  increased  his  equipment  and 
rendered  the  successful  prosecution  of  his  task  a  possibility. 
Each  time  he  turned  to  a  fresh  volume  of  his  series  he 
began  by  preparing  an  gbauche,  or  as  he  generally  preferred 
to  say  in  his  letters,  a  maquette>  that  is  a  rough  model  of  the 
intended  work.  The  Eougon  or  the  Macquart  who  was  to 
figure  most  prominently  in  it  had  been  previously  chosen ; 
he  knew  what  was  to  be  that  character's  environment,  and 
the  philosophical  idea  which  was  to  govern  the  volume. 
Taking  his  pen  in  hand,  he  now  pictured  such  secondary 
characters  as  the  proposed  milieu  suggested,  and  set  down 
such  facts  and  incidents  as  might  logically  ensue  from  the 
chosen  characters  and  their  surroundings.  Briefly,  in  a 
broad  and  somewhat  vague  way,  he  built  up  a  subject 
Those  general  notes  having  been  placed  in  a  portfolio  by 
themselves  he  next  took  his  characters  in  hand,  one  by  one, 
noting  their  respective  histories,  ages,  health,  physical  ap- 
pearance and  nature,  disposition,  habits,  and  associations. 
That  work  having  been  completed  was  placed  in  a  second 
portfolio,  and  Zola  next  passed  to  the  question  of  environ- 
ment, collecting  a  variety  of  information  respecting  the 
different  localities  where  the  scenes  of  his  narrative  were 
to  be  laid.  Next  he  started  an  inquiry  into  the  professions 

24 


370    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFORMER 

or  trades  of  his  characters,  and  such  other  technical  mat- 
ters as  might  be  useful  to  him,  and  his  notes  on  those  sub- 
jects were  also  gathered  together  in  portfolios.  They  were 
often  based  on  personal  observation,  but  naturally  enough 
Zola  consulted  technical  works  and  friends  whom  he  knew 
to  be  well  informed  on  certain  points.  Their  letters  and 
quotations  from  the  books  he  had  consulted  were  added  to 
his  personal  memoranda. 

By  the  time  all  this  was  done  his  materials  were  often  in 
excess  of  what  he  required.  Nevertheless  he  based  himself 
upon  them  in  planning  his  book.  He  decided  on  the  num- 
ber of  chapters  the  volume  should  contain,  and  distributed 
the  materials  among  them.  This  entailed  much  minute 
labour.  For  instance,  he  took  his  first  rough  draft  of  his 
subject,  and  distributed  the  principal  incidents  mentioned 
in  it  among  the  proposed  chapters ;  then  he  took  his  notes 
on  his  characters  and  apportioned  them  in  a  similar  man- 
ner ;  in  one  chapter,  for  instance,  the  appearance  of  some 
individual  must  be  described;  in  another  some  particular 
characteristic  must  be  brought  to  the  front ;  in  yet  another 
the  changes  effected  in  the  same  personage  by  environment 
or  other  causes  must  be  dealt  with.  Thus  borrowing  notes 
from  one  and  another  of  his  first  portfolios,  and  distributing 
them  as  the  narrative  and  its  situations  might  suggest,  Zola 
gradually  planned  his  chapters  from  the  first  to  the  last. 

All  this  was  still  rough  work,  and  before  committing  a 
chapter  to  paper,  Zola  re-examined  his  materials,  set  them 
in  what  seemed  the  best  order,  both  with  respect  to  what 
he  might  have  said  in  previous  chapters  and  with  respect  to 
the  effect  he  desired  to  produce  in  the  new  one.  Now  and 
again  he  would  find  some  note  superfluous,  and  reject  it 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE     371 

altogether;  at  other  times  he  might  transfer  it  to  a  sub- 
sequent chapter,  where  the  fact,  incident,  problem,  or  theory 
it  enunciated  would  have  a  more  logical  place.  Moreover, 
while  he  was  writing,  it  occasionally  occurred  to  him  that 
some  incident  he  was  describing,  or  some  remark  he  attrib- 
uted to  one  of  his  characters,  would  have  a  certain  effect 
farther  on ;  and  thereupon  he  at  once  made  a  note  of  the 
circumstance,  and,  his  chapter  finished,  transferred  all  such 
notes  to  their  proper  places.  t€  It  will  be  seen/'  says  Alexis, 
from  whom  these  particulars  have  been  borrowed,1  "that 
this  method  of  proceeding  from  the  general  to  the  special 
is  complicated,  but  logical  and  safe.  A  friend  of  Zola's 
(M.  Bruneau  ?)  told  me  that  it  reminded  him  of  Wagner's 
learned  and  novel  orchestration.  I  do  not  know  how  far 
that  comparison  may  be  accurate;  but  it  is  certain  that 
Zola's  works,  when  read  for  the  first  time  by  the  profane, 
must  have  a  little  of  the  disconcerting  effect  of  the  Wag- 
nerian  operas.  The  first  impression  is  one  of  great  confti- 
sion ;  the  reader  is  on  the  point  of  exclaiming  that  there  is 
no  sign  of  composition  or  rule ;  but  on  penetrating  to  the 
structure  of  the  work  you  find  that  everything  is  mathe- 
matical; you  discover  a  deep  science,  and  recognise  that 
the  outcome  is  really  the  result  of  prolonged  labour  fraught 
with  strenuous  patience  and  determination." 

Edmondo  de  Amicis,  in  an  appreciation  of  Zola,  included 
in  his  "  Eecollections  of  Paris,"  mentions  that  the  novelist 
showed  him  a  number  of  notes  he  had  prepared  for  "  L'As- 
sommoir,"  and  as  Amicis's  account  of  them  throws  light  on 
Zola's  methods  of  work,  a  quotation  from  his  pages  may  be 
added  to  the  particulars  taken  from  Alexis. 

1  Alexis,  I.  c.j  pp.  163-166. 


372    $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOBMER 

"  On  the  first  sheets  of  paper  were  sketches  of  the  personages, 
notes  about  their  appearance,  temperament,  and  character.  I  found 
the  mirotrs  caraderistiques  of  Gervaise,  Coupeau,  Mother  Cou- 
peau, the  Lori]leux,  the  Boches,  Goujet,  and  Madame  Lerat.  All 
the  figures  of  the  hook  were  there.  The  notes  were  laconic,  like 
those  of  a  court  registrar,  but  free  like  those  of  a  novelist,  and 
sprinkled  with  short  arguments,  such  as  this  :  *  Born  under  those 
circumstances,  educated  in  that  manner,  he  must  conduct  himself 
in  such  or  such  a  way.'  In  one  place  was  the  query :  '  "What 
else  can  a  rascal  of  this  stamp  do  1  *  ...  I  was  struck  by  a  sketch 
of  Lantier's  character,  which  was  nothing  but  a  string  of  adjec- 
tives, each  stronger  than  the  other,  such  as  *  gross,  sensual,  brutal, 
egotistical,  smutty.'  In  some  places  appeared  the  words :  i  Use  So 
and  So,1  meaning  somebody  known  to  the  author.  And  the  whole 
was  penned  in  proper  sequence  in  a  large,  clear  handwriting.  Then 
I  saw  sketches  of  places  outlined  in  ink,  and  as  accurate  as  the 
drawings  of  an  engineer.  There  were  a  number.  The  whole 
book  was  drawn :  the  streets  of  the  district  in  which  the  plot 
was  laid,  with  their  corners  and  indications  of  their  shops ;  the 
zigzags  which  Gervaise  made  to  avoid  her  creditors,  the  direction 
taken  by  Nana  in  her  Sunday  escapades,  the  tipplers'  peregri- 
nations from  music-hall  to  boozing-ken,  and  the  hospital  and 
slaughter-house,  between  which  one  terrible  evening  the  poor 
ironing  woman  went  maddened  by  hunger.  Then  Marescot's 
big  house  was  drawn  in  minute  detail;  there  was  the  whole  of 
the  top  floor  with  the  landings,  the  windows,  the  mute's  den,  old 
Bru's  hole — all  those  dark  passages  in  which  one  detected  the 
gasp  of  death,  those  walls  which  resounded  as  if  only  empty 
paunches  were  within,  those  doors  through  which  came  an  ever- 
lasting music  of  blows  and  the  cries  of  little  ones  dying  from 
starvation.  There  was  also  a  plan  of  Gervaise's  shop  and  home, 
room  by  room,  with  indications  of  the  beds  and  tables,  and  here 
and  there  erasures  and  corrections,  which  suggested  that  Zola  had 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEE  373 

amused  himself  by  the  hour,  perhaps  quite  forgetting  his  story, 
immersed  in  his  creation  as  if  it  were  something  he  actually  re- 
membered. *  On  other  pages  were  notes  of  various  kinds.  I  recol- 
lect two  particularly — 'twenty  pages  of  description  of  such  a 
thing,  twelve  pages  of  description  of  such  a  scene,  to  be  divided 
into  three  parts.'  One  could  divine  that  Zola  had  the  descrip- 
tion in  his  head,  formulated  before  it  was  set  on  paper ;  that  he 
could  hear  it  resounding  rhythmically  within  him,  like  music 
which  only  lacked  words.  This  system  of  working  with  the  com- 
passes, as  it  were,  even  at  things  of  the  imagination,  is  not  so 
rare  as  some  may  imagine.  Zola,  for  his  part,  is  a  great  mechanic. 
One  can  see  how  his  descriptions  proceed,  symmetrically,  spaced 
out,  separated  at  times  by  some  padding  to  give  the  reader  breath' 
ing  time,  and  divided  into  almost  equal  sections,  like  that  of  the 
flowers  of  the  Paradou  in  '  La  Faute  de  FAbbe  Mouret/  that  of 
the  thunder  storm  in  *  Une  Page  d'Amour,'  and  that  of  the  death 
of  Coupeau  in  *  L'Assommoir.'  One  might  say  that  for  his  mind 
to  work  at  ease  it  is  necessary  Zola  should  first  trace  the  precise 
limits  of  his  work,  know  exactly  at  what  points  he  may  rest,  and 
what  will  be  the  extent  and  aspect  of  his  work  when  printed. 
When  his  materials  are  too  large  he  cuts  them  down  in  order 
to  get  them  within  those  limits ;  when  they  are  small  he  makes 
an  effort  to  spin  them  out  to  the  allotted  point.  He  has  an  un- 
conquerable passion  for  due  proportions  which  may  occasionally 
tend  to  prolixity,  but  which  frequently,  by  compelling  his  mind  to 
dwell  on  his  subject,  renders  his  work  deeper,  more  complete." 

Zola's  books  were  written  on  small,  unruled  quarto  paper, 
almost  invariably  of  a  very  stout  quality  and  highly  glazed. 
Though  his  handwriting  was  large  and  bold  he  did  not  use 
a  quill  like  Hugo  and  others,  but  the  French  equivalent  of 
the  J  pen,  and  for  some  thirty  years  he  invariably  employed 
the  same  thick  ivory  holder,  so  heavy  a  one  that  the  present 


374    fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

writer,  who  had  occasion  to  use  it  now  and  again  when  Zola 
was  in  England,  could  not  help  remarking  that  the  hand 
might  well  feel  tired  after  carrying  it  to  paper  for  three  or 
four  successive  hours.  But  with  Zola  it  was  a  question  of 
habit ;  he  could  hardly  write  at  all  unless  he  had  a  weight 
of  nearly  three  ounces  in  his  hand,  and  he  would  he  in 
quite  a  state  of  distress  if  an  urgent  letter  had  to  be 
written  and  he  lacked  his  usual  implement. 

The  script  of  his  books  was  as  a  rule  beautifully  clear  and 
open.  On  each  slip  he  left  a  margin  about  two-thirds  of  an 
inch  in  width;  his  lines,  on  an  average  one  and  twenty  per 
slip,  were  very  straight  and  regular.  The  general  character 
of  his  handwriting  is  shown  by  the  fac-simile  of  a  letter 
given  in  this  volume,  the  concluding  portion  being  more 
like  his  book  "copy,"  for  on  the  first  page  the  script  is 
rather  smaller  than  usual  It  will  be  noticed  that  the 
writing  is  of  a  distinctly  personal  character.  On  consulting 
a  large  number  of  autographs  we  have  found  little  like  it, 
but  the  disconnected  letters  and  syllables  recall  the  writing 
of  Boileau,  Chateaubriand,  Michelet,  Jules  Janin,  and  Yictor 
Hugo.  Some  specimens  from  Hugo's  pen  seem  to  indi- 
cate that  if,  instead  of  a  sloping,  he  had  written  an  upright 
hand,  it  might  well  have  resembled  Zola's.  The  latter,  it 
may  be  remarked,  never  departed  from  his  upright  hand, 
whereas  in  autographs  of  some  French  authors — -Dumas 
p@re  and  George  Sand,  for  instance  —  one  finds  now  an  up- 
right and  now  a  sloping  writing,  the  former  being  used  in 
formal  letters,  the  latter  in  notes  to  intimate  friends,  when 
the  writers  were  not  en  repvesentat^onJ  but  allowed  their 
feelings  full  play.  In  Zola's  case  the  upright  hand  appears 
in  the  most  intimate  letters  as  well  as  in  his  "  copy  "  for  the 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE    375 

press,  and  thus  it  would  seem  to  have  been  with  him  a 
natural,  not  an  artificial,  writing.  One  may  add,  without 
asserting  any  particular  faith  in  graphology,  that  on  apply- 
ing its  rules,  without  prejudice,  to  Zola's  writing,  the  latter 
will  be  found  to  indicate  despotivity,  stubbornness,  insight, 
and  orderliness,  combined  with  poetry.  Perhaps,  then,  there 
may  be  some  truth  in  that  alleged  science. 

Here  and  there  in  Zola's  book  "copy"  one  finds  words 
crossed  out  with  double  lines,  and  there  are  some  inter- 
linear corrections,  with  occasionally  a  marginal  addition,  but 
these  alterations  are  surprisingly  few.  If  one  judged  Zola 
by  his  manuscripts  only,  one  would  take  him  to  be  a  man 
who  wrote  au  courant  de  la  plume,  without  the  slightest 
effort.  But  should  his  manuscripts  ever  be  open  to  public 
inspection  *  it  will  be  found  that  they  differ  largely  from  his 
printed  works.  His  proof  corrections  were  most  extensive, 
whole  sheets  of  his  first  proofs  were  sometimes  cut  to 
pieces,  and  numerous  additional  corrections  and  alterations 
appeared  in  his  first  revises.  It  was  from  second  revises 
that  the  translations  of  his  books  were  usually  made,  but 
further  corrections  often  ensued.  One  has  not  yet  reached 
his  novel  "Paris,"  nevertheless  one  may  mention  here  that 
he  modified  the  names  of  several  characters  in  it  at  the  last 
moment,  altering  Harn  to  Harth,  Duthil  to  Dutheil,  Sagnier 
to  Sanier,  and  so  forth ;  and  as,  amid  the  great  rush  of  the 

1  He  was  exceedingly  jealous  about  them.  The  present  writer  has  had  a 
few  in  his  possession,  on  trust,  but  always  had  to  return  them.  There  may 
be  some  early  manuscripts  of  short  stories  in  Eussia,  and  a  few  similar  ones  in 
the  possession  of  French  collectors ;  but,  as  a  rule,  Zola  insisted  on  the  return 
of  his  "  copy,"  and  nearly  the  whole  of  it  was  in  his  possession  when  he  died. 
As  for  the  first  proofs  bearing  his  numerous  corrections  he  repeatedly  stated 
that  almost  all  of  them  were  destroyed.  The  writer  has  some  revises  con- 
taining occasional  corrections,  usually  in  the  handwriting  of  Madame  Zola. 


376    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   REFORMER 

Dreyfus  affair,  he  forgot  to  send  any  warning  of  what  he 
had  done,  the  English  version  appeared  with  the  names 
unaltered.  It  may  be  added  that  Zola  always  welcomed 
suggestion  and  correction.  The  writer  pointed  out  to  him 
that  two  characters  in  "  La  Debacle  "  had  the  same  Christian 
names,  and  that  some  confusion  might  arise  respecting 
them.  Forthwith  —  in  this  case  also  at  the  last  moment  — 
he  altered  one  of  the  names,  delaying  the  printing  of  the 
book  for  some  days  in  order  that  the  correction  might  be 
made.  Again,  on  reading  the  proofs  of  "  Borne  "  the  writer 
detected  a  few  topographical  errors  and  called  attention  to 
them.  Zola  consulted  his  plans  of  the  city  and,  finding 
he  had  erred,  altered  what  he  had  written,  at  the  same 
time  requesting  his  translator  to  point  out  any  further  slips 
he  might  notice.  Those  were  trifling  matters,  and  are  only 
mentioned  here  as  instances  of  Zola's  desire  to  make  his 
books  as  perfect  as  possible. 

Naturally  enough,  they  contain  some  blunders.  For 
instance,  Zola  was  in  error  when,  at  the  outset  of  "Son 
Excellence  Eug&ne  Bougon,"  he  pictured  an  official  of  the 
Corps  L^gislatif  reading  the  minutes  of  a  previous  sitting, 
whereas  the  minutes  were  always  taken  as  read,  for  other- 
wise hours  would  have  been  consumed  in  their  perusal. 
He  also  erred  with  respect  to  the  betting  odds  on  a  horse 
in  "  Nana,"  which  was  not  surprising,  the  turf  being  virtu- 
ally terra  incognita  to  him.  Again,  —  and  this  was  a  bad 
blunder,  —  in  "La  Faute  de  l'Abb6  Mouret,s>1he  spoke  of 
lizards  hatching  their  eggs  on  the  rocks,  instead  of  deposit- 
ing them  there  and  leaving  them  to  be  hatched  by  the 
warmth  of  the  atmosphere.  Critics  made  much  of  that 
unfortunate  slip,  which  reminds  one  of  a  curious  mistake 

i  P.  266L 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER  377 

made  by  Alexandra  Dumas  p&re,  who  relates  in  a  novel 
that  the  peritonitis  (!)  of  one  of  his  characters  was  per- 
forated by  a  sword  thrust.  Dumas  certainly  wrote  rapidly, 
at  times  anyhow;  but  we  must  remember  that  the  most 
painstaking  works  often  fall  short  of  perfection.  M4- 
rim^e  rewrote  "Colomba"  sixteen  times  before  he  sent  it 
to  the  press;  nevertheless  several  slips  have  been  found 
in  it.  Flaubert  devoted  six  years  to  "  Madame  Bovary," 
and  yet  pictured  one  of  its  characters  paying  another  exactly 
eighty-five  francs  in  two-franc  pieces.  Briefly,  lapses  are 
to  be  found  in  the  most  carefully  written  books  as  well  as 
in  the  best-regulated  families.1 

In  Zola's  short  stories,  particularly  the  earlier  ones,  his 
style  often  remains  light  even  when  it  is  most  ornate.  In 
the  Bougon-Macquart  novels,  the  insistence  on  a  multi- 
plicity of  details  tends  to  heaviness.  Zola  was  well  aware 
of  it,  for  as  far  back  as  1884,  in  conversation  with  Edmond 
de  Goncourt,  Maupassant,  Huysmans,  Alexis,  and  an  Eng- 
lish friend,2  he  said:  "I  am  in  the  habit  of  feeling  the 
pulse  of  the  public,  and  am  compelled  to  say  that  I  notice 
signs  of  a  reaction  against  us,  ...  Our  books  will  be 
regarded  as  heavy,  and  we  cannot  hide  from  ourselves  that 
they  are  not  easy  to  read.  To  follow  us  the  reader  has  to 
make  a  determined  mental  effort."  There  is  no  little  truth 

1  "We  refer  farther  on  to  the  death  or  Macquart  by  spontaneous  combus- 
tion, in  "Le  Docteur  Pascal." 

2  The  last  named  (Mr.  George  Moore  ?)  gave,  it  seems,  an  account  of  this 
conversation  in  the  **  St.  James's  Gazette,"  May  13,  1884 ;  and  the  article 
was  translated  and  published  in  Paris.     Not  having  seen  the  English  text, 
the  present  writer  has  followed  the  French  version.    It  appears  that  the  con- 
versation took  place  at  the  house  of  Edmond  de  Goncourt,  on  an  occasion 
when  the  latter  read  to  his  friends  his  preface  to  "  Cherie,"  in  which  he  bade 
farewell  to  literature. 


378      &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   REFORMER 

in  that  remark,  but  one  may  add  that  Zola  is  easier  to  read 
and  follow  than  many  of  his  hrother  realists.  Fifty  pages 
of  the  pyrotechnics  of  the  Groncourts  —  the  labour  connected 
with  which  killed  the  younger  one,  Jules,  as  Edmond  often 
acknowledged  —  may  interest  the  reader,  but  after  a  few 
hundred  of  them  one  often  feels  dizzy  and  fagged.  The 
brothers  Margueritte,  who  proceeded  from  the  Goncourts, 
have  sometimes  carried  the  passion  for  literary  fireworks 
even  further.  Zola  was  quite  unable  to  read  their  chief 
work,  "  Le  D&astre."  "  I  have  taken  up  fchat  book  a  dozen 
times/1  he  said  one  day  to  the  present  writer,  "but  on  each 
occasion,  after  picking  my  way  through  a  few  pages,  I  have 
had  to  put  it  down.  There  is  some  trick  of  style  in  every 
sentence.  One  is  never  allowed  a  moment's  rest.  After 
each  of  those  trials  it  has  seemed  to  me  as  if  my  head 
would  split." 

On  another  occasion  lie  remarked:  "Nothing  changes 
more  frequently  than  the  fashion  in  literary  style.  That 
is  why  so  many  books,  although  often  not  very  old,  are 
quite  unreadable.  Our  decadents  insist  on  polishing  and 
repolishing  their  style  till  their  writings  become  mere  jew- 
ellery work,  which  will  please  nobody  a  few  years  hence, 
I  myself  dabbled  in  such  work  formerly.  When  it  does  not 
run  to  any  great  length  it  amuses  one,  and  it  may  interest 
the  critic,  even  please  the  reader,  like  something  fresh  and 
novel.  But  the  latter  soon  sickens  of  it.  He  does  not  want 
to  be  obliged  to  cudgel  his  brain  at  every  sentence." 

It  is  generally  held  by  the  critics  that  the  descriptions 
of  Paris  appended  to  each  section  of  "  Une  Page  d' Amour  " 
are  among  the  finest  passages  to  be  found  in  the  Rougon- 
Macquart  novels.  But  the  present  writer  after  reperusing 


SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    379 

them,  is  inclined  to  regard  their  beauty  as  being  some- 
what too  artificial,  too  elaborate.  One  may  well  prefer 
the  panorama  of  the  quays  of  Paris  in  "L'CEuvre,"  the 
picture  of  daybreak  at  the  central  markets  in  "  Le  Ventre 
de  Paris,"  the  descente  and  the  rentree  of  the  workers  in 
"L'Assommoir,"  and  the  march  of  the  pitmen  in  "Germinal." 
In  the  former  instances  the  spectacle  which  Zola  sets  before 
the  reader  has  a  vividness  that  leaves  a  lasting  impression ; 
in  the  latter  you  are  borne  along  with  the  crowds  which 
the  author  has  conjured  forth,  you  can  see  and  hear  their 
tramp,  the  sensation  of  motion  being  rendered  with  a  skill 
which  few  writers  have  ever  equalled.  Further,  as  a  superb 
example  of  the  horrible  blended  with  the  pathetic,  one  may 
cite  the  wonderful  description  of  the  death  of  little  Charles, 
in  "Le  Docteur  Pascal." 

"Germinal,"  " L'Assommoir,"  "La  D4Mcle,"  and  "La 
Terre  "  are  ranked  as  the  four  pillars  of  the  Rougon-Mac- 
quart  series.  From  a  purely  literary  standpoint  the  first 
is  superior  to  the  second,  because  it  contains  less  slang. 
The  use  of  slang  in  dialogue  is  often  advisable,  even  neces- 
sary ;  but  in  narrative  and  descriptive  passages  it  is  difficult 
to  defend  it  unless  the  story  be  told  in  the  first  person  by 
one  who  habitually  speaks  slang.  Zola  had  some  such  idea 
in  writing  "  L'Assommoir  "  (which  he  pictured  as  a  book 
about  the  people  by  one  of  them),  but  shrank  from  carry- 
ing it  to  its  logical  conclusion,  and  the  result,  in  a  literary 
sense,  was  not  quite  pleasing.1  However,  both  ."  Germinal " 

1  In  writing  "  I/ Assommoir  "  Zola  did  not  merely  consult  the  existing  slang 
dictionaries.  The  scene  of  the  story  was  laid  at  half  an  hour's  walk  from 
his  own  home.  He  prowled  the  whole  neighbourhood  for  weeks,  observing 
and  listening  ;  and  before  he  set  pen  to  paper  he  prepared  a  little  slang  lexicon, 
for  his  own.  use,  one  which  may  some  day  be  published.  He  kept  this  com- 


380  SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

and  *  L'Assommoir "  are  living  books,  the  greatest  their 
author  ever  penned. 

Passing  to  "  La  D^bScle,"  this  is  certainly  a  wonderfully 
truthful  panorama  of  war  and  its  horrors,  though  the 
psychology  of  several  of  its  characters  is  open  to  criticism. 
Too  many  of  them  lack  robustness ;  they  seem  too  full  of 
nerves  to  be  regarded  as  typical.  In  the  case  of  Maurice, 
a  mere  degenerate,  the  picture  is  accurate  enough;  but 
assuredly  many  feelings  which  JSola  and  others  have  attrib-  - 
uted  to  soldiers  are  little  known  in  actual  war.  The  ma- 
jority of  military  men  are  far  less  sensitive  than  some  have 
said,  and  incident  often  follows  incident  so  rapidly  in  real 
battle  that  there  is  no  time  for  thought  or  emotion  at  all. 
*  La  Terre  M  also  has  faults,  the  outcome  of  Zola's  reforming 
purpose,  which  led  him  to  assemble  too  many  black  charac- 
ters within  a  small  circle;  had  they  been  more  dispersed 
among  people  of  an  average  kind  the  effect  would  have 
been  more  lifelike.  In  <( Nairn"  the  general  blackness  of 
the  characters  does  not  seem  out  of  place,  for  only  men  and 
women  of  a  sorry  sort  gravitate  around  a  harlot  A  few 
more  average  characters  in  "  La  Terre/'  or,  rather,  more 
prominence  given  to  some  who  scarcely  appear  in  its  pages 
would  have  greatly  improved  the  book.  Here,  however, 
as  in  "  Pot-Bouille,"  Zola,  carried  away  by  his  feelings,  over- 
looked that  doctrine  of  average  truth,  of  which  Ste.-Beuve 
had  reminded  him  apropos  of  "  Thdrkse  Raquin."  He  then 
admitted  that  he  had  piled  on  the  agony  unduly,  and  he 
made  the  same  mistake  in  two  or  three  volumes  of  "  Les 


pilation  at  his  elbow  while  he  was  writing,  and  every  time  he  "borrowed  from  it 
a  word  or  expression  he  marked  the  latter  with  a  "blue  pencil,  iu  order  to  avoid 
too  frequent  a  repetition  of  the  same  term. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOEMEB     381 

Bougon-Macqnart/'  But  when  all  is  said  "La  Terre"  re- 
mains one  of  Ms  strongest  and  most  truthful  books.1 

The  savage  brutishness  of  the  chief  characters  in  the 
work  may  well  seem  impossible  to  the  ignorant;  but  al- 
though in  reading  "La  Terre"  one  should  always  bear  in 
mind  that  Zola  never  pretended  that  all  peasants  were  like 
those  in  his  grim  picture,  it  is  certain  that  his  personages, 
individually,  are  accurately  drawn.  Awful  is  the  record  of 
parricides,  matricides,  fratricides,  common  murders,  murder- 
ous assaults,  rapes,  and  offences  of  inferior  degree  perpe- 
trated in  rural  France.  And  earth  hunger,  disputes  about 
property,  boundaries,  inheritances,  and  so  forth,  will  be  found 
at  the  bottom  of  the  great  majority  of  cases.  But  "La 
Terre"  does  not  deal  exclusively  with  the  criminal  side  of 
peasant  life.  It  pictures  many  other  features :  it  describes 
the  drawbacks  of  the  small-holdings  system,  shows  agri- 
culture hampered  by  the  extreme  subdivision  of  the  soil, 
traces  the  march  of  revolutionary  and  socialist  principles 
among  those  who  till  it;  sketching,  too,  on  the  way,  the 
treatment  which  the  imperial  regime  accorded  to  the 
peasantry. 

There  is  not  space  here  to  pass  all  the  Bougon-Macquart 
volumes  in  review  from  a  critical  point  of  view.  One  may 
say,  however,  that  generally,  though  not  invariably,  those 
dealing  with  a  multiplicity  of  characters  are  superior  to 
those  in  which  Zola  analyses  the  feelings  and  actions  of  a 
few.  It  is  acknowledged  he  excelled  in  portraying  the 

i  A  writer  in  the  "  Athenaeum  "  [No.  3911,  October  11, 1902],  when  review- 
ing Miss  Betham-Edwards's  "  East  of  Paris,"  pointed  out  that  in  a  previous 
work,  "France  of  To-day,"  1892,  she  had  denounced  "La  Terre/'  and  de- 
clared it  to  he  "  crushingly  refuted  ";  whereas  ten  years  later  she  admitted 
that  it  was  "not  without  foundation  on  fact.11 


282    $MILE  ZOLA,   NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMER 

"  crowd."  Structural  faults  are  to  be  found  in  various  vol- 
umes. For  instance,  the  long  idyll  of  Silv&re  and  Miette 
interrupts  the  narrative  of  "  La  Fortune  des  Rougon  "  un- 
duly ;  and  the  poetical  Paradou  portion  of  "  La  Faute  de 
I'AbM  Mouret"  is  hardly  compatible  with  the  realism  of 
the  opening  and  concluding  chapters.  Then  "  Le  R§ve  "  is 
almost  out  of  place  in  the  series,  for  though  the  Naturalist 
writer  must  take  account  of  the  dreamy  aspirations  and  im- 
aginings of  certain  hearts  and  minds,  it  is  perhaps  exces- 
sive to  picture  those  dreams  fulfilled  in  actual  happenings. 
Again,  there  is  some  artificiality  in  "  Une  Page  d'Amour/' 
Innumerable  as  are  the  love  intrigues  in  French  society 
one  may  well  doubt  if  an  analysis  of  any  would  yield  the 
psychology  of  Zola's  work.  "  La  Cui£e,"  on  the  other  hand, 
within  the  limitations  imposed  on  the  author  by  circum- 
stances and  personal  knowledge,  is  a  sound  piece  of  work, 
quite  irrespective  of  the  poetical  intentions  which  some 
critics  have  ascribed  to  it.  Passing  to  such  volumes  as  "  La 
Conqu6te  de  Plassans,"  "  Le  Ventre  de  Paris,"  and  "  Son  Ex- 
cellence," one  finds  that  though  they  may  be  minor  works 
they  are  very  near  to  life  and  historical  truth.  Then 
"  Nana,"  a  great  book  from  the  social  standpoint,  is  almost 
one  in  the  literary  sense  also.  But  while  freely  admitting 
the  greatness  of  "  L'Assommoir  "  and  "  Germinal,'*  the  vol- 
ume which  particularly  appeals  to  the  present  writer  is  rt  Le 
Docteur  Pascal,"  perhaps  because  Zola  therein  expounds  and 
defends  his  theory  of  life.  The  love  of  uncle  and  niece, 
pictured  in  this  book,  may  offend  the  feelings  of  English 
and  American  Protestants,  but  they  ought  to  remember  that 
in  Catholic  countries  marriages  often  take  place  between 
people  connected  by  that  tie  of  relationship.  The  writer, 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEHEE      383 

for  Ms  part,  has  nothing  whatever  to  say  against  them  from 
the  moral  standpoint ;  he  deprecates  them,  even,  as  he  dep- 
recates all  marriages  between  relations,  on  physiological 
grounds.  But  the  affections  bow  neither  to  legal  enact- 
ments nor  to  scientific  rules ;  love,  as  we  are  all  aware,  has 
no  master ;  and  if,  therefore,  one  accept  the  position  of  Dr. 
Pascal  and  his  niece  Glotilde,  Zola's  work  will  he  found  one 
of  absorbing  interest  for  the  thinking  mind.  True,  it  is  dis- 
figured by  an  error  which  the  reader  must  set  aside :  the 
death  of  the  old  drunkard  Macquart  by  spontaneous  com- 
bustion, for  scientists  have  declared  such  a  death  to  be 
impossible.  Zola,  however,  long  before  writing  "Le  Doc- 
teur  Pascal/'  had  found  a  case  of  the  kind  recorded  in  a 
scientific  work ;  and  for  years,  as  several  of  his  letters  and 
utterances  show,  he  had  nursed  the  idea  of  bringing  it  into 
his  final  volume.  Nobody  then  warned  him  of  his  error, 
but  directly  his  book  appeared  several  scientists  protested 
that,  whatever  might  be  the  effects  of  alcoholism,  it  could 
not  lead  to  a  death  like  Macquart's.  That  episode,  then, 
must  be  dismissed,  but  the  bulk  of  the  book  remains,  with 
its  terrible  lessons,  its  pages  of  vivid  and  merciless  analysis, 
its  pictures  of  the  evils  of  life  relieved  by  a  glowing  faith 
in  nature's  power  for  good,  an  optimism  which  nothing  dis- 
mays, which  points  to  the  dawn  of  a  brighter  day  for 
humanity,  whatever  may  be  its  present  condition.  And 
from  the  purely  literary  standpoint  *  Le  Docteur  Pascal "  is 
admirable.  Its  style  is  perfect.  The  descriptive  and  the 
analytical  passages  are  replete  with  beauty,  depth,  and  force 
of  expression.  Poetry  is  here  so  thoroughly  welded  with 
prose  that  one  cannot  object  to  it  as  one  may  in  some  other 
volumes,  such,  for  instance,  as  "  Tine  Page  d' Amour,"  where 


384  ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOBMER 

it  seems  merely  a  beautiful  excrescence.  The  psychology  of 
the  characters  in  "Le  Docteur  Pascal3'  is  also  good.  In 
point  of  fact,  no  doubt,  this  was  a  long  meditated  work. 
Almost  from  the  time  when  Zola  began  his  series  —  at  least 
as  soon  as  the  Empire  had  fallen  —  he  pictured  the  finale 
ahead  of  him,  he  thought  of  it  during  all  the  years  when  he 
was  writing  the  intervening  volumes,  he  gradually  planned 
and  perfected  it  in  his  mind  long  before  he  actually  wrote 
it  It  is  not  a  book  for  the  vulgar,  who  come  and  go,  heed- 
less of  the  problems,  possibilities,  and  purposes  of  life  ;  but 
though  the  love  of  Pascal  and  Clotilde  may  offend  moral 
prejudices,  though  from  the  standpoint  of  scientific  accuracy 
the  narrative  may  be  disfigured  by  the  error  of  Macquart's 
death,  we  hold  this  to  be  the  noblest,  the  most  convincing, 
the  most  consoling  book  that  Zola  ever  wrote*  Such  an 
opinion,  however,  may  not  find  much  acceptance  in  England 
and  America  where  the  bias  in  favour  of  revealed  religion  is 
so  strong. 

Without  insisting  further  on  the  merits  or  demerits  of 
particular  volumes,  if  we  glance  at  the  series  as  a  whole 
we  shall  find  it  to  be  an  unexampled  achievement.  It  is 
more  self-contained  than  "  La  Com^die  Humaine,"  in  writing 
which  Balzac  really  had  no  definite  plan.  As  M.  Chaumi6, 
French  Minister  of  Public  Instruction,  has  said :  "  In  Zola's 
work  one  finds  all  society  .  .  .  with  the  milieux  in  which 
it  displays  its  activity,  the  men  composing  it,  the  passions 
which  stir  and  sway  them,  their  vices,  sorrows,  and  mis- 
eries, the  sufferings  too  of  the  disinherited,  —  the  whole 
forming  so  striking  and  so  true  a  picture  that  after  con- 
templating it  those  with  the  poorest  like  those  with  the 
keenest  sight  must  realise  the  necessity  of  remedying  those 


<-.  '  !    >   '    "'   ,", 


Maitre  Labor! 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFOKMER     385 

sufferings,  contending  against  those  vices,  and  assuaging 
those  sorrows*  .  .  .  Thus,  what  might  have  been  only  an 
admirable  literary  achievement,  an  inestimable  document 
on  a  period,  an  ever-living  picture  of  a  given  time  .  .  . 
acquires  greater  grandeur,  is  insured  of  yet  loftier  glory, 
by  the  generous  spirit  which  inspired  it."1 

Further,  though  it  has  been  suggested  here  that  some  ex- 
aggeration and  some  flaws  may  appear  in  the  psychology  of 
certain  individual  characters,  the  series  as  a  whole  responds  to 
Taine's  definition  of  literature  as  "  a  living  psychology."  As 
M.  Paul  Bourget  has  said :  "  Zola  regarded  the  novel  as  a 
kind  of  hypothetical  experiment,  attempted  on  positive 
bases,  the  first  condition  for  success  being  that  the  bases 
should  be  accurate  and  the  hypothesis  logical.  When  the 
hour  of  justice  strikes  for  that  unwearying  toiler  people 
will  recognise  what  immense  preliminary  toil  and  study  lay 
beneath  each  of  his  books.  They  will  also  discern  his  un- 
wavering purpose  to  inquire  fully  into  the  condition  of 
contemporary  France,  to  carry  his  inquiry  as  far  as  possible 
in  order  to  set  the  social  problem  completely  and  accu- 
rately before  one.  His  right  to  depict  all  reality  (la  rdaliU 
totale),  which  is  that  of  every  sociologist,  even  of  every  his- 
torian, will  not  be  disputed  then." 

It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  remind  the  reader  that  the 
Eougon-Macquart  novels  should  be  studied,  whenever  pos- 
sible, in  the  original  French,  and  not  in  translations.  There 
have  been  many  versions  of  the  books  in  the  English  lan- 
guage ;  the  present  writer  has  made  himself  responsible  for 
not  a  few  of  them ;  and  certainly  translations  are  in  a  meas- 
ure useful,  for  as  yet  a  knowledge  of  foreign  languages  is 

1  Funeral  oration  on  Zola. 
25 


386  £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

limited  to  a  minority  of  the  reading  public.     Besides,  it  is 
usually  possible  to  transmit  in  a  translation,  at  least  in 
essential  particulars,  the  lesson  which  a  book  is  intended 
to  convey*    But  at  the  same  time  much  is  lost,  and  in  a 
good  many  instances  translations  which  have  even  taken 
rank  as  literature  do  not  adequately  represent  their  origi- 
nals.   At  the  present  day,  with  respect  to  contemporary 
works,  excellence  in  translation  is  scarcely  to  be  obtained, 
for  commercial  conditions  militate  against  it.    An  author 
may  give  years  to  the  writing  of  a  book,  whereas  the  Eng- 
lish translator  is  compelled  to  prepare  his  version  in  a  few 
months,  at  times  even  in  a  few  weeks,  for  it  is  often  stipu- 
lated by  the  publisher  that  the  translation  must  appear  at 
the  same  time  as  the  original    It  may  be  necessary  also 
for  the  English  translator  to  attend  to  some  serial  publica- 
tion, and  to  provide  for  copyright  in  America,  with  the  re- 
sult that  the  work  has  to  be  done  hastily,  in  a  rough  and 
ready  manner.    Again,  the  prices  paid  for  translations  are 
usually  so  low  that  few  men  of  real  ability  are  willing  to 
undertake  them.    The  writer,  though  he  has  had  great  ex- 
perience in  these  matters,  can  suggest  no  remedy,  for  un- 
doubtedly the  commercial  as  well  as  the  literary  side  of  the 
question  has  to  be  considered,  and  even  if  a  translator,  re- 
gardless of  gain,  were  to  bestow  on  his  work  all  the  time 
and  care  it  might  deserve,  the  chances  would  be  that  no 
publisher  would  look  at  it,  for  the  market  would  be  gone  — 
so  swiftly  do  even  very  able  books  perish  in  these  modern 
days. 

With  respect  to  the  writer's  own  work,  as  translator  or 
as  editor  of  various  English  versions  of  Zola's  novels,  he  is 
fully  aware  of  its  many  imperfections,  due  in  some  in- 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     387 

stances  to  the  time  limit  imposed  on  Mm,  and  in  others 
to  pecuniary  and  similar  considerations.  Again,  British 
Pharisaism  being  what  it  is  he  had  never  been  able  to 
give  an  absolutely  complete  version  of  any  of  Zola's  books. 
Still  he  has  always  tried  to  preserve  the  spirit  of  the  origi- 
nal, even  when  he  has  been  compelled  to  throw  off  his 
"copy"  at  express  speed.  And  in  any  case  his  versions, 
like  those  of  others,  will  at  least  have  served  the  purpose  of 
making  most  of  Zola's  views  known  to  thousands  who  are 
unable  to  read  French. 

But  to  properly  appreciate  and  judge  any  one  of  the  works 
of  the  great  novelist  it  must  be  read  in  the  original  and 
in  its  entirety.  That  demands  a  good  sound  knowledge  of 
French.  Nothing  has  amazed  the  writer  more  than  to  re- 
ceive from  time  to  time  during  the  last  twelve  years  a  note 
to  this  effect :  "  Dear  Sir,  —  I  am  learning  French,  and  in 
order  to  gain  a  better  knowledge  of  it,  I  think  of  trying  to 
read  one  of  Zola's  books  with  the  help  of  a  dictionary. 
Which  volume  would  you  recommend  me  to  try  ?  "Which 
is  an  easy  one?"  Such  an  idea  is,  of  course,  ludicrous. 
Zola's  style  is  not  particularly  involved,  his  vocabulary  if 
large  is  not  recondite,  but  to  understand  him  properly  the 
reader  must  possess  more  than  a  mere  smattering  of  French. 
In  some  volumes,  too,  he  deals  with  technical  subjects,  while 
in  others  he  occasionally  uses  slang  or  purely  Parisian  ex- 
pressions, in  which  cases  dictionaries  are  of  very  little  help. 
The  present  writer  found  it  necessary  to  study  certain  sub- 
jects carefully  before  attempting  to  translate  some  of  Zola's 
volumes :  for  it  was  only  by  doing  so  that  he  could  avoid 
mistakes.  For  instance,  the  English  version  of  "  Travail " 
necessitated  the  perusal  of  several  text-books  on  metallurgy, 


388     $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

and  a  visit  to  some  large  English  steel  works.  An  Ameri- 
can version  of  the  same  hook  was  made  by  a  person  who 
did  not  take  that  precaution,  with  the  result  that  it  liter- 
ally bristled  with  technical  errors.  When  one  considers  the 
vast  range  of  Zola's  subjects,  it  must  he  obvious  that  the 
work  of  translating  his  books  amounts  to  little  less  than  a 
liberal  education.  The  writer  must  confess  that  for  his  part 
he  learnt  a  great  deal  by  the  work,  so  that  if  he  conferred 
no  particular  advantage  on  his  readers  he  at  least  benefited 
himself. 

In  previous  chapters  some  mention  has  been  made  of 
Zola's  repeated  efforts  as  a  playwright,  and  as  after  1893 
he  only  penned  some  libretti  for  the  music  of  his  friend, 
M.  Bruneau,  one  may  here  add  a  few  words  respecting  his 
plays.  None  of  those  which  he  wrote  without  assistance 
proved  a  success,  though  he  often  claimed  that  some  of  the 
public  were  favourable  to  "  Le  Bouton  de  Rose,"  which,  said 
he,  was  damned  mainly  by  the  critics.  On  the  other  hand  the 
stage-craft  of  M.  Busnach  made  a  success  of  "  L'Assommoir  " 
and  of  one  or  two  other  adaptations.  In  all  probability  the 
correct  view  to  take  of  Zola's  writings  for  and  about  the 
French  stage  is  that  their  influence,  however  considerable, 
was  chiefly  indirect.  Realism  has  come  to  dramatic  litera- 
ture —  on  which  the  novel  always  reacts  —  but  the  younger 
French  dramatists  rightly  regard  M.  Henri  Becque  as  their 
more  immediate  sponsor.  At  the  same  time  several  things 
that  Zola  desired  to  see  have  come  to  pass  ;  a  good  many  of 
his  philosophical  and  social  ideas  are  to  be  found  in  the  con- 
temporary French  drama.  Now  and  again  they  appear  some- 
what conspicuously,  as  in  M.  Octave  Mirbeau's  play  "Les 
Mauvais  Bergers,"  and  in  some  of  the  works  of  M.  Brieux. 


&MILE   ZOLA,  NOVELIST   AND   REFORMER    389 

Again,  M.  Gustave  Charpentier's  famous  roman  musical, 
"  Louise,"  produced  in  1900,  was  distinctly  Zolaesque  in  its 
inspiration;  one  of  its  chief  features,  the  frequent  evocation 
of  Paris,  proceeding  directly  from  "Une  Page  d*  Amour.** 
Further  Zola's  influence  was  at  times  destructive.  Soon 
after  "  La  Terre  "  had  "been  published  in  Paris  the  Com^die 
Fran§aise  revived  George  Sand's  peasant-play  "Francois  le 
Champi,"  which  since  its  first  production  in  1849  had  been 
frequently  played  with  success  at  the  Ode*on  Theatre.  But 
the  revival  at  the  Comddie  proved  a  complete  failure,  the 
play  which  had  lived  for  nearly  forty  years  being  slain  in 
a  few  nights.  Originally  regarded  as  ultra-realistic,  it  ap- 
peared quite  insipid  to  the  generation  which  had  just  perused 
"La  Terre."  To  sum  up,  even  as  the  influence  of  Balzac 
(though  he  wrote  little  for  the  stage)  was  apparent  in 
dramatic  productions  from  1850  to  1870,  something  similar 
though,  perhaps,  less  pronounced  may  be  observed  with  re- 
spect to  the  more  recent  influence  of  Zola.  He,  by  the  way, 
was  once  asked  his  opinion  of  the  influence  of  Ibsen  on  the 
French  stage,  and  of  Tolstoi  and  other  Russians  on  the 
French  novel,  and  he  replied  that  he  did  not  attach  much 
importance  to  the  question,  for  he  held  that  the  ideas  which 
were  supposed  to  rain  on  Paris  from  the  North  were  In  real- 
ity French  ones,  which  had  been  disseminated  by  French 
writers,  and  had  come  back  to  their  place  of  origin,  occa- 
sionally crystallised  or  intensified  by  the  more  sombre  im- 
agination of  Scandinavian  and  Russian  minds. 


xn 

THE  MAN— HIS  LIFE  DRAMA  — A  NEW 
DEPAETUEE. 

1893-1897 

Zola* 3  personal  appearance  —  A  palmist's  reading  of  his  hand  —  Some  of  hia 
petty  manias  and  superstitions  —  His  powers  of  observation.  —  His  mem- 
ory —  Characteristics  of  his  intellect  —  His  daily  life  —  His  orderliness 

—  His  **  confession  "  —  The  drama  of  his  life  —  A  childless  home  —  Birth 
of  ah  illegitimate  daughter  and  son  —  Some  great  men  and  the  moral  law 

—  Some  eminent  women  and  the  popular  standard  of  morality — The 
alleged  "  new  Zola"  —  Sermonising  novels  —  "  L'Attaque  du  Moulin  " 
as  an  opera  —  The  trilogy  of  "  Lourdes,"  **  Borne,*'  and  "Paris  "  —  Faith, 
hope,  and  charity  to  he  replaced  by  fruitfulness,  work,  truth,  and  justice 

—  Attacks  on  *'  Lourdes  "  — Arrest  of  Dreyfus — Zola,  his  book  **  Borne," 
and  Pope  I*eo  XIII.  —  His  stay  in  the  Eternal  City — He  visits  hia 
Italian  relatives  —  Difficulties  of  writing  ''Rome"  —  Its  publication  — 
Charges  of  plagiarism  and  Zola's  answer  —  His  volume  **  Kouvelle  Cam- 
pagne  "  —  His  opinion  of  a  clairvoyant*  —  His  first  defence  of  the  Jews. 

Isr  middle  age  Zola  was  about  five  feet  seven  inches  high. 
His  trunk  was  short,  his  legs  being  rather  long  for  a  man 
of  the  stature  indicated,  but  he  had  a  broad  and  prominent 
chest,  and  his  shoulders  were  well  set.  His  left  foot  was 
sensibly  shorter  than  the  right,  his  instep  was  very  arched. 
He  had  small  wrists,  but  large  though  shapely  hands  with 
small  round  nails.  According  to  Dr.  Edouard  Toulouse I  all 
the  diameters  of  his  skull  were  distinctly  above  the  average, 
but  his  brain  was  never  weighed,  for  at  the  time  of  his  death 

1  *'  Unquote  Meclico-Psychologique  sur  les  Bapports  de  la  Superiority  Intel- 
lectuelle  avec  la  NeVropathie.  Introduction  generale.  J§mile  Zola,"  by  Dr. 
&  Toulouse,  Paris,  1896. 


^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  KEFOBMER      391 

Ms  friends  resisted  applications  made  to  them  by  certain 
scientists  to  whom,  it  seems,  Zola  himself  had  almost  prom- 
ised that  his  remains  would  be  at  their  disposal. 

Being  very  short-sighted,  he  usually  wore  glasses,  seen 
though  which  his  eyes  seemed  deep  and  somewhat  stern; 
but  in  intimacy  they  softened  and  sparkled  freely.  At  one 
period  he  wore  his  hair  short,  at  another  long,  and  according 
to  these  variations  his  forehead  seemed  to  change,  assuming 
at  one  time  an  appearance  of  abnormal  height.  His  lips  were 
somewhat  thick  and  sensual,  inclined  to  pout.  He  had  large 
ears,  and  heard  better  with  the  left  than  with  the  right. 
For  music,  in  spite  of  his  long  association  with  M.  Bruneau, 
the  composer,  he  really  had  little  ear,  though  he  possessed  a 
keen  sense  of  rhythm.  On  looking  at  him  the  feature  that 
most  struck  one  was  certainly  his  nose,  which  had  a  gradu- 
ally broadening,  lobulated  tip.  Edmond  de  Goncourt  declared 
that  Zola's  physiognomy  was  summed  up  in  this  somewhat 
peculiar  nasal  organ,1  which,  he  jestingly  remarked,  resem- 
bled the  muzzle  of  a  sporting  dog,  and  assumed  all  sorts  of 
expressions  —  indicating,  in  turn,  approval,  condemnation, 
wonder,  amusement,  sadness,  or  whatever  else  might  be  its 
owner's  opinion  or  mood.  While  making  all  allowance  for 
humoristic  exaggeration,  there  was  certainly  some  truth  in 
Goncourt's  words.2 

Zola's  hands,  to  which  reference  has  been  made  above,  were 
examined  on  one  occasion  by  a  "  palmist " ;  and  for  the  ben- 
efit of  those  who  believe  in  chiromancy  one  may  mention 
that  the  sibyl's  pronouncement  was  to  this  effect:  "A  great 

*  "Journal  des  Goncourt,"  Yol.  VI,  p.  254. 

2  According  to  Dr.  Toulouse,  Zola  was  less  keen  than  most  people  in  de- 
tecting odours,  but  he  had  a  " smell  memory"  and  could  remember  objects 
by  their  scent 


392     ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

change  at  forty  years  of  age ;  a  long  life ;  a  sudden  death ; 
fond  of  family  life  and  travelling ;  proficient  in  art  and  par- 
tial to  military  music ;  confident  in  the  future  but  having 
little  confidence  in  himself  personally;  a  large  heart  but 
more  philanthropically  inclined  towards  collectivities  than 
towards  individuals;  possessed  of  a  deep  sense  of  justice, 
the  slightest  injustice  exasperating  him ;  admiring  audacity, 
strength,  and  authority  while  fond  of  liberty  for  himself ; 
influenced  more  by  Ms  mind  than  by  sensual  passion  at  the 
outset  of  his  love  affairs,  but  afterwards  extremely  ardent." l 
The  lack  of  self-confidence  indicated  by  the  palmist  was 
confirmed  by  Zola  to  Dr,  Toulouse,  who  found  that  the  nov- 
elist's doubt  of  himself  was  excessive  and  unreasonable. 
He  frequently  feared  that  he  might  be  unable  to  accom- 
plish his  daily  task,  finish  the  book  he  had  begun,  or  con- 
clude the  speech  he  was  delivering.  At  one  period,  before 
lie  could  go  to  bed  he  had  to  satisfy  a  peculiar  craving  to 
touch  and  retouch  certain  articles  of  furniture,  open  and 
reopen  certain  drawers,  Arithmomania  pursued  him :  he  was 
for  ever  counting  the  gas  lamps  in  one  or  another  street,  and 
the  number  of  the  houses.  He  long  believed  multiples  of 
three  to  be  of  good  augury,  but  later,  as  he  told  Goncourt, 
multiples  of  seven  inspired  him  with  most  confidence. 
Moreover,  he  was  so  susceptible  to  thunder  and  lightning 
that  whenever  a  storm  burst  over  M&lan  all  the  shutters 
had  to  be  closed  and  all  the  lamps  lighted,  after  which  he 
would  often  bandage  his  eyes  with  a  handkerchief.  Even 
when,  there  was  no  storm  and  he  found  himself  in  absolute 
darkness,  he  was  occasionally  troubled  by  what  seemed  to 
be  luminous  phenomena. 

i  Published  in  1893. 


$MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       393 

A  dreadful  idea  came  to  Mm  now  and  then :  it  was  that 
his  heart  had  moved  into  his  arm  or  his  thigh,  and  that  he 
could  feel  it  beating  there.  It  must  be  said,  too,  that  he 
was  most  sensitive  to  physical  pain1  and  extremely  sub- 
ject to  emotion,  which  brought  on  attacks  of  a  form  of 
angina  from  which  he  suffered,  periodically,  over  a  period  of 
thirty  years.  The  insults  levelled  at  him  by  unscrupulous 
journalists,  as  much  with  respect  to  the  alleged  obscenity  of 
his  writings  as  to  his  share  in  the  Dreyfus  case,  constantly 
led  to  such  attacks,  but  his  mind  being  always  superior 
to  his  body,  he  never  swerved  from  what  he  regarded  as 
his  duty — the  enunciation  of  inconvenient  truths  —  even 
though  he  knew  he  would  be  savagely  denounced  for  it 
and  that  his  ailment  would  necessarily  return.  Briefly,  as 
Dr.  Toulouse  has  said,  Ms  emotivite,  although  morbid, 
always  left  his  mind  in  a  state  of  perfect  lucidity  and  equi- 
librium. To  the  psychologist  and  the  physician  his  ex- 
ample demonstrated,  in  the  most  unimpeachable  manner, 
the  authority  of  the  mind  over  the  body,  the  power  of  the. 
will  over  disease. 

His  powers  of  observation  were  exceptionally  keen.  DT. 
Toulouse,  in  the  course  of  an  experiment  he  made  with 
him,  placed  a  photograph  of  an  idiot  child  before  his  eyes 
for  a  few  moments.  He  immediately  noticed  certain  ana- 
tomical peculiarities  which  as  a  rule  would  only  strike 
a  medical  man,  and  he  noticed  them  although  they  were 
scarcely  perceptible  in  the  photograph,  which  had  greatly 

1  He  showed  great  sensitiveness  to  all  cutaneous  impressions.  He  conld 
not  wear  clothes  in  any  degree  tight,  or  lie  in  bed  "tucked  in."  As  a  rule 
he  slept  for  seven  hours,  and  on  awaking  he  constantly  complained  of  pains 
in  one  and  another  part  of  the  body,  this  being  a  symptom  common  among 
those  who  are  liable  to  nervous  affections. 


394       ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

faded.  But,  adds  Dr.  Toulouse,  as  soon  as  Zola  ceased 
to  observe  consciously,  his  attention  flagged,  and  at  times 
lie  did  not  even  recognise  acquaintances  whom  he  met  in 
the  street  "They  think,"  he  said  to  the  doctor,  "that 
when  I  forget  to  acknowledge  them  I  am  absorbed  in 
deep  meditation  about  my  next  novel,  but  as  a  matter  of 
fact  I  am  not  thinking  of  anything/'  It  was  the  same 
with  his  memory.  When  he  wished  to  remember  any  ob- 
ject or  scene,  the  details  became  printed  on  his  mind  as 
clearly  and  fully  as  if  they  had  been  photographed.  But 
unless  he  made  a  voluntary  effort,  his  memory  did  not  serve 
him.  When  he  was  President  de  la  Soci<5t6  des  Gens  de 
Lettres  three  months  elapsed  before  he  could  repeat  the 
names  of  the  twenty-four  members  of  the  committee.  If 
he  had  been  as  deeply  interested  in  those  gentlemen  as  he 
was  in  the  facts  he  collected  for  his  books,  he  would  cer- 
tainly have  recalled  their  names  at  once. 

Some  novelists  note  everything  around  them,  —  people, 
places,  and  occurrences, —  and  store  them  up  for  subsequent 
use  in  one  or  another  book ;  but  that  was  not  Zola's  system. 
If  he  were  writing  about  peasants,  other  matters  scarcely 
interested  him.  You  might  have  told  him  something  curi- 
ous about  soldiers  or  financiers,  he  would  have  given  it 
little  heed.  He  isolated  his  mind,  as  it  were,  concen- 
trated it  entirely  on  the  subject  he  had  in  hand.  Moreover, 
his  imagination  was  as  systematic  as  his  memory.  As 
stated  in  a  previous  chapter,  he  first  decided  on  the  gen- 
eral ideas  he  would  illustrate;  then,  by  deduction,  he  im- 
agined the  characters  likely  to  illustrate  those  ideas.  A 
thousand  concrete  facts  thereupon  arose  in  his  mind, 
grouped  themselves  in  his  system,  and  imparted  life  to 


£MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     395 

his  philosophical  abstractions.  That  faculty,  that  power  of 
assembling  affinitive  images,  tending  to  a  logical  end,  was 
preponderant  in  Zola.  By  its  means  the  psychical  processus 
is  canalised,  mental  effort  and  waste  are  diminished,  and 
the  will  is  able  to  act  in  a  well-defined  manner.  In  Zola 
such  power  was  developed  to  the  highest  degree,  and  therein 
will  be  found  the  reason  of  his  intellectual  superiority. 
It  links  him  with  all  the  great  creators  possessed  of  syste- 
matic minds,  the  men  who  have  gone,  not  groping  darkly, 
but  with  patient  effort  and  in  full  light,  towards  their  objects. 
Hugo  and  Balzac  showed  by  their  writings  that  their  brains 
were  organised  in  the  same  manner.  The  quick  and  incon- 
siderate mind,  so  unequal  in  its  inspirations,  which  is  often 
attributed  to  artists,  does  not  seem  compatible  with  great 
creative  power,  the  latter  acting  in  a  much  more  uniform 
manner.  Zola's  particular  mentality  explains  both  his  life 
and  his  work.  He  systematised  in  literature  the  realistic 
tendencies  of  the  philosophy  of  Comte  and  Taine ;  and  he 
carried  that  systematisation  to  its  farthest  limit  by  creating 
the  novel  of  complete  observation  (le  roman  d*  observation 
integrale),  in  which  he  studied  heredity  under  all  its  as- 
pects, recoiling  from  no  audacity  either  of  observation  or 
of  expression. 

By  mere  reasoning,  adds  Dr,  Toulouse,  whom  we  still  fol- 
low,1 Zola's  systematic  mind  traced  for  itself  a  course  of 
action  which  was  often  at  variance  with  his  instincts,  yet 
he  followed  it  perseveringly,  sustained  merely  by  his  con- 
ception of  duty.  His  tendency  to  gout  and  corpulence 
(which  last  he  overcame  by  sheer  determination)  must 

1  Not  in  the  work  previously  quoted,  but  in  a  paper  lie  wrote  after  Zola's 
death  ("Le  Temps,"  Octoter,  1902). 


396    &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

have  predisposed  him  to  laziness,  but  lie  mastered  any 
such  inclination  by  compelling  himself  to  do  a  certain 
amount  of  work  every  day.  As  a  rule  he  then  wrote 
quite  sufficient  "copy"  to  form  three  pages  of  one  of  his 
books,  in  addition  to  occasional  newspaper  articles.  He 
also  carried  on  an  extensive  correspondence,  yet  the  only 
time  when  he  had  recourse  to  secretarial  help  was  the 
period  of  the  Dreyfus  case.  Nulla  dies  sine  linea  was  a 
motto  he  had  adopted  early  in  life,  and  lest  it  should  be 
forgotten  it  was  graven  in  letters  of  gold  over  the  fireplace 
of  his  large  study  at  M£dan,  where  most  of  his  books  were 
written. 

At  M^dan  he  rose  at  eight  o'clock,  went  for  an  hour's 
stroll,  seating  himself  at  his  writing  table  at  nine  and  writ- 
ing till  one  o'clock,  usually  on  an  empty  stomach,  for  after 
he  had  resolved  to  conquer  his  corpulence  his  first  meal 
consisted  generally  of  a  mere  crust  of  bread,  though  now 
and  again  he  might  partake  of  a  couple  of  eggs  "on  the 
plate,"  which  to  please  him  had  to  be  cooked  to  a  nicety.  At 
one  o'clock  he  lunched;  and  then,  perhaps,  came  a  short 
nap,  after  which  he  either  read  the  papers  or  worked  at 
an  article  or  went  out  walking,  cycling,  or  boating.  If  he 
were  at  home  in  the  afternoon,  he  drank  a  cup  of  tea,  and 
this  carried  him  on  till  dinner,  which  was  served  at  half- 
past  seven.  Afterwards,  if  friends  were  staying  with  him, 
there  might  be  a  game  of  billiards  or  a  quiet  chat  over 
another  cup  of  tea.  For  some  years  he  drank  nothing  at 
all  with  his  meals,  at  which  he  preferred  his  fish  fried  and 
his  meat  grilled;  but  later  he  allowed  himself  a  glass  of 
water,  and  on  a  hot  afternoon,  if  he  were  thirsty,  he  now 
and  then  indulged  in  a  little  white  wine  and  eau  de  Seltz. 


1SMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER       397 

Red  wine  lie  did  not  touch,  from  1887  till  the  time  of  Ms 
death ;  but  occasionally,  after  a  meal  or  in  the  evening,  he 
treated  himself  to  a  thimbleful  of  old  cognac  or  some  liqueur. 
This  happened  perhaps  once  a  week,  not  more  frequently, 
so  it  will  be  seen  that  he  was  almost  a  total  abstainer. 

Both  at  Mddan  and  in  Paris  (unless  he  were  spending 
the  evening  in  society  or  at  a  theatre)  Zola  retired  to  his 
bedroom  between  ten  and  eleven  o'clock,  but  he  generally 
remained  reading  there  for  some  hours  before  he  actu- 
ally went  to  bed.  His  mornings  in  Paris  like  those  at 
M6dan  were  given  to  writing;  and  as  he  could  not  boat 
or  conveniently  cycle  in  the  metropolis,  his  afternoon  out- 
ings resolved  themselves  into  visits  or  strolls  to  sundry 
places  which  he  might  wish  to  describe  in  some  forthcom- 
ing book.  Six  o'clock  in  the  evening  was  the  hour  usually 
appointed  for  receiving  newspaper  interviewers  or  those 
who  brought  him  letters  of  introduction.  His  Sundays 
were  spent  much  like  his  week-days,  except  that  instead  of 
working  at  a  book  he  then  often  gave  the  morning  to  letter- 
writing.  Glancing  through  a  large  collection  of  his  letters 
we  find  some  scores  of  them  written  on  one  and  another 
Sunday.  These  particulars  will  show  the  general  orderli- 
ness of  his  life,  which  was  further  exemplified  by  his  ex- 
tremely tidy  habits,  the  regularity  with  which  he  changed 
Ms  clothes  directly  he  came  home,  substituting  a  loose  flan- 
nel shirt,  a  working  jacket,  and  slippers  for  his  linen,  his 
black  coat,  and  his  boots.  And  he  never  left  the  slightest 
litter  of  papers  in  his  workroom;  such  documents  as  he 
might  be  using  were  set  out  tidily  on  various  tables ;  the 
newspapers  he  read  were  always  neatly  folded  directly  he 
had  finished  perusing  them ;  the  very  string  of  the  parcels 


398      fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

lie  received  was  at  once  rolled  up  and  put  aside  in  a  drawer ; 
he  liked  to  have  everything  spick  and  span,  and  it  was  he 
himself  who  attended  to  virtually  all  the  menage  of  his 
Parisian  and  country  workrooms. 

About  1893  a  "confession"  of  the  drawing-room  order 
was  extracted  from  Zola,  and  on  consulting  it  one  finds 
him  stating  that  his  favourite  colour  (like  Daudet's)  was 
red  and  his  favourite  flower  the  rose,  though  he  also  had 
a  taste  for  peonies  and  dahlias,  which  he  grew  in  profusion 
at  M^dan,  Contrary  to  Daudet,  who  expressed  a  liking  for 
no  animals  or  birds  whatever,  he  declared  that  he  liked 
them  all  Work,  he  wrote,  was  his  favourite  occupation, 
while  his  dream  of  happiness  was  to  do  nothing.  The 
quality  he  preferred  in  man  was  kind-heartedness,  in  woman 
tenderness*  His  favourite  authors,  painters,  and  composers 
were  those  who  saw  and  expressed  things  clearly.  His 
favourite  heroes  and  heroines  in  fiction  were  those  who 
were  not  heroes  or  heroines ;  in  real  life,  those  who  earned 
their  bread.  The  greatest  misfortune  he  knew  was  to  re- 
main in  doubt  respecting  anything ;  the  historical  characters 
he  most  despised  were  traitors ;  the  gift  he  most  desired  to 
possess  was  eloquence ;  and  the  way  he  would  like  to  die 
was  "suddenly." 

Of  one  longing  which  possessed  Zola  for  several  years 

there  is  no  mention  in  the  "  confession  " ;  neither  is  it  indi- 

^ 

cated  in  Dr.  Toulouse's  "Enqu§te."  But  its  nature  and  its 
consequences  must  be  stated  here.  Eminent  writers  have 
more  than  once  laid  down  the  rule  that  if  in  writing  an 
account  of  any  living  individual  it  is  best  to  preserve  reti- 
cence and  avoid  everything  offensive,  on  the  other  hand  it 
is  essential  that  the  biographer  of  one  who  is  dead  and  gone 


llMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMER     399 

should  tell  the  truth  respecting  him.  Of  course  it  may 
prove  advisable,  and  indeed  justice  itself  may  require,  that 
one  should  he  kind  to  his  virtues  and  a  little  blind  to  his 
faults,  for  the  former  may  be  many  and  exemplary,  and  the 
latter  few  and  unimportant ;  but  if  one  were  to  ignore  the 
last  completely  a  very  erroneous  impression  would  be  con- 
veyed, the  suppressio  veri  being  equivalent  to  the  suggestio 
falsi.  Nevertheless  in  this  present  age,  when  so  many 
agree  to  shun  the  truth  because  it  offends  the  superfine 
delicacy  of  their  degenerate  natures,  one  is  constantly  con- 
fronted by  so-called  biographies  of  eminent  men,  and  notable 
women  also,  in  which  a  variety  of  facts  are  suppressed,  the 
world  at  large  being  taught  to  look  at  these  people  through 
deceptive  glasses  which  show  them  perfect,  whereas,  in 
reality,  their  flaws  were  often  great.  At  times,  indeed,  one 
is  invited  to  contemplate  such  beings  as  can  never  have 
existed,  and  though  the  falsity  of  the  picture  may  merely  irri- 
tate the  scholar,  it  utterly  misleads  the  uninitiated,  tending 
to  absolutely  erroneous  conceptions  and  adding  yet  another 
lie  to  the  many  on  which  present-day  society  is  based. 

In  the  case  of  Zola,  he  was  such  an  impassioned  servant 
of  truth  that  to  conceal  the  truth  concerning  him,  to  paint 
him  in  false  colours,  would  be  doing  him  a  wrong.  Besides, 
he  never  claimed  that  he  was  perfect,  he  knew  that  he  was 
very  human.  Further,  the  facts  which  must  now  be  men- 
tioned were  written  about  more  or  less  accurately,  but  openly, 
in  several  Parisian  newspapers  at  the  time  of  his  death ; 
the  present  writer  also  had  occasion  to  refer  to  them  in 
a  newspaper  article ;  and  some  American  journals  likewise 
gave  them  currency.  Thus  the  omission  of  all  mention  of 
them  here  would  be  as  ridiculous  as  misleading.  At  the 


400    SIMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

same  time  it  is  quite  unnecessary  to  go  beyond  the  essential 
facts,  which  may  be  recounted  with  comparative  brevity. 

When  Zola  married,  about  the  time  he  began  his  Rougon- 
Macquart  novels,  he  certainly  looked  forward  to  a  life  of 
unalloyed  happiness.  But  though  he  achieved  celebrity 
and  became  possessed  of  comparative  wealth,  though  his 
wife  was  all  love  and  devotion,  there  remained  a  great  void 
in  his  existence.  He  had  no  child,  and  the  desire  for  pa- 
ternity was  strong  within  him.  One  can  trace  it  through 
many  of  his  books,  and  there  is  no  doubt  whatever  that 
it  became  a  fixed  idea  with  him,  was  responsible  for  some  of 
his  petty  superstitions,  and  entered  even  into  that  dread  of 
death  which  the  loss  of  his  mother  and  of  his  friend  Flau- 
bert at  one  time  suggested.  He  would  die  and  would  leave 
no  posterity.  Of  what  value  was  life,  then  ?  He  had  always 
regarded  transmission  as  being  its  first  essential  function ; 
and  it  tortured  him  at  times  to  think  that  he  was  famous, 
that  he  was  rich,  and  that  he  would  leave  no  offspring 
behind  him. 

It  may  be  said  that  this  happens  to  many  men ;  that  some 
become  more  or  less  reconciled  to  it ;  that  some  go,  quietly 
grieving,  to  their  graves.  Others,  however,  are  egotistical 
enough  to  experience  no  desire  for  paternity.  There  are 
also  instances  of  men  to  whom  an  extreme  culture  imparts  a 
kind  of  self-sufficingness :  for  example,  all  the  unmarried 
philosophers,  from  those  of  Greece  to  those  of  our  own 
times.  Even  among  the  great  men  who  have  married  one 
will  find  many  unblessed  with  offspring.  Scientists  have 
occasionally  tried  to  explain  this  in  one  way  or  another,  but 
no  explanation  seems  to  be  of  general  applicability.  In  that 
connection  one  must  remember  that  there  have  also  been 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    401 

many  men,  distinguished  by  the  exceptional  activity  of  their 
minds,  who  have  left  large  families.  Occasionally  they  may 
have  survived  their  children,  as  in  the  case  of  that  untiring 
worker,  Victor  Hugo,  but  none  the  less,  even  if  they  have  had 
the  grief  of  losing  both  sons  and  daughters,  they  have  known 
the  happiness  of  paternity. 

That  a  craving  for  such  happiness  should  have  become  in- 
tense in  a  man  like  Zola,  with  all  the  emotional  tendencies 
of  his  temperament,  was  natural,  perhaps  fatal.  It  was 
one  of  the  sufferings  that  made  him  seek  a  refuge  in  steady, 
all-absorbing  work,  and  for  years,  by  immersing  himself  in 
his  task,  he  contrived  to  dull  his  pain  and  silence  all  the 
suggestions  of  a  rebellious  nature.  Goncourt,  one  day  after 
returning  from  a  visit  to  M6dan,  jotted  down  in  his  diary 
some  remarks  about  the  gloom,  the  emptiness  of  that  spacious 
abode.  There  were  plenty  of  dogs,  but  there  were  no  chil- 
dren, and  children  were  necessary  to  such  a  home.  It  is 
evident  that  Goncourt  with  his  keen  penetration  had  divined 
the  secret  grief  of  its  master  and  mistress.  But  years  rolled 
on,  and  hopes  first  fondly  cherished,  then  clung  to  with  de- 
spairing tenacity,  remained  unfulfilled.  The  moralist  will 
say  undoubtedly  that  resignation  was  the  one  right  course, 
but  human  nature  seldom  resigns  itself  willingly  to  any- 
thing, and  certainly  Zola's  nature  was  not  one  to  do  so. 
As  he  approached  his  fiftieth  year  it  began  to  assert  itself, 
as  Goncourt  shows  us  in  another  passage  of  his  "  Journal " ; 
and  then,  after  long  years  of  battling,  however  strong  the 
spirit  might  still  be,  the  flesh  finally  triumphed  over  it. 

It  is  unnecessary  to  review  what  the  Bible  and  Buckstone, 
Taylor  and  Kent,  Montesquieu  and  Potier  have  to  say  re- 
specting the  violation  of  the  marriage  vow,  and  the  distinc- 

26 


402     tMUJE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFOEMEE 

tions  which  may  be  drawn  between  the  action  of  husband  and 
of  wife.  Nor  need  there  be  any  defence  on  the  lines  of  the 
tMorie  du  d$u%  morale*  as  interpreted  by  Nisard*  One 
may  allow  that  there  is  strictly  only  one  moral  law  for  both 
sexes  and  for  all  stations  in  life,  royal  as  well  as  plebeian. 
At  the  same  time  one  is  entitled  to  indicate  whatever  ex- 
tenuating circumstances  may  exist  One  may  think  of  the 
position  of  Thomas  and  Jane  Carlyle,  as  enunciated  by 
the  supporters  of  the  former,  and  then  picture  a  very  dif- 
ferent sequel,  for  in  Zola's  case  a  time  came  when  he  was 
carried  away  from  the  path  of  strict  duty,  and  in  the  result 
a  child  was  born  to  him,  a  daughter  called  Denise.  Later 
came  the  birth  of  a  son,  called  Jacques.  An  echo  of  what 
happened  —  the  tempestuous  passion  of  a  man  of  ripe  years 
for  m  young  woman — resounded  through  the  pages  of 
<f  Le  Docteur  Pascal/'  while  w  F&sondiW  published  much 
later,  revealed  many  of  the  sufferings,  much  of  the  yearning, 
that  had  led  to  this  crisis  in  Zola's  life. 

Those  who  are  perfect  may  now  throw  stones.  Many 
who  are  not  will,  of  course,  do  so,  regardless  of  permission, 
and  with  the  greater  alacrity  as  the  dead  man  cannot  answer 
them.  But  he  was  forgiven  long  ago  by  the  one  person 
who  was  entitled  to  complain.  There  was  much  suffering, 
much  unhappiness,  of  which  the  world  heard  nothing,  but 
at  last  her  broad  nobility  of  mind  rose  above  the  personal 
wrong  and  the  common  prejudice,  and  in  these  later  days 
she  has  transferred  much  of  the  devotion  with  which  she 
encompassed  her  husband  to  the  children  whose  birth  fol- 
lowed the  crisis  which,  at  one  time,  threatened  to  sweep 
the  home  away. 

Let  us  remember,  too,  that  the  case  of  Zola  was  in  no  wise 


ZOLA,  NOYELIST  AND  EEFOBMEE    403 

exceptional  Our  great  men  have  to  be  taken  with  their 
faults  as  with  their  virtues.  Englishmen  will  remember 
that  Nelson,  Wellington,  and  Lord  Melbourne  violated  the 
popular  standard  of  morality,  and  yet  rendered  great  ser- 
vices to  their  country.  Americans  will  remember  the  same 
of  Franklin,  Daniel  Webster,  and  Henry  Clay.  A  recent 
President  of  the  United  States  was  not  above  reproach  when 
he  was  elected  to  the  supreme  magistracy.  There  is  an 
English  statesman  of  commanding  abilities,  on  one  page  of 
whose  career  a  blot  appears  and  who  for  that  reason  has 
been  pursued  with  unrelenting  hatred  by  canting  Pharisees 

those  to  whom  one  owes  the  monstrous  and  inhuman 

doctrine  that  an  error  in  a  man's  life  must  never  be  for- 
given, that  if  he  stumble  but  once  he  must  always  remain 
damned*  With  their  narrow  bigotry  those  people  arrogate 
to  themselves  a  greater  righteousness  than  that  of  the 
Christ  whose  precepts  they  pretend  to  follow.  To  love  one 
another,  to  forget  and  to  forgive,  are  no  maxims  of  theirs. 
Though  the  name  of  the  Deity  is  so  constantly  on  their  lips, 
they  really  seem  to  be  men  after  the  devil's  own  heart,  for 
they  play  the  part  of  his  imps,  ever  intent  on  persecution. 

If  the  world  were  to  reject  all  the  great  men  who  have 
erred,  would  not  the  pantheons  of  the  nations  be  well-nigh 
empty?  If  it  were  to  reject  the  works  of  every  writer 
whose  life  was  not  absolutely  immaculate,  what  literature 
would  be  left?  Masterpieces  of  the  human  mind,  writings 
that  have  wrought  an  infinity  of  good,  would  be  cast  aside. 
One  may  remind  the  reader  that  a  good  many  English 
authors  even  of  that  age  of  specious  respectability,  the  Vic- 
torian era,  were  by  no  means  perfect  in  their  private  lives. 
In  France,  no  doubt,  more  laxity  has  prevailed.  Take  that 


404    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFOEMEE 

champion  of  Christianity,  Chateaubriand,  and  remember  the 
many  Kaisont  of  his  married  life ;  take  that  great  deist, 
Victor  Hugo,  also  a  married  man,  and  with  no  such  excuse 
as  Chateaubriand  and  Zola  may  have  had,  and  remember  his 
long  connection  with  Madame  Juliette  Drouet*  And  as  ex- 
amples of  moral  laxity  among  men  outside  the  matrimonial 
pale,  take  Alfred  de  Musset  and  both  the  Dumas,  partic- 
ularly the  elder.  Old  Parisians,  like  the  writer,  will  re- 
member the  day  in  or  about  1869  when  even  the 
boulevards  were  scandalised  by  the  sight  which  confronted 
one  and  all  in  the  windows  of  every  shop  where  photographs 
were  sold.  There  was  the  portrait  of  the  prince  of  roman- 
cers with  Adah  Isaacs  Menken,  the  circus-rider,  seated,  in 
her  fleshings,  on  his  knees,  her  arms  cast  lovingly  about  his 
neck.  Happily  in  the  afternoon  the  son  appeared  upon  the 
scene  and  carried  off  all  such  photographs  that  he  could 
find,  and  thereupon  Paris*  which  had  been  laughing  a  porno- 
graphic laugh,  applauded  him,  recalling  the  story  of  Japhet 
and  his  father  Noah. 

But  it  is  not  only  men  who  have  thrust  the  moral  law 
aside.  The  lives  of  George  Eliot  and  others  are  known  to 
us.  They  were  as  nothing  beside  that  of  George  Sand,  who 
in  the  matter  of  her  private  life  was  perhaps  the  nearest 
approach  to  Byron  to  be  found  among  female  writers*  She 
passed  from  Baron  Dudevant,  her  husband,  to  Jules  Sandeau, 
then  to  M^rimfe,  then  to  Musset,  then  to  Pagello,  then  to 
Michel  de  Bourges,  then  to  Pierre  Leroux,  then  to  Chopin, 
and  at  last  to  Manceau,  the  engraver,  those  passions  being 
interspersed  with  platonic  interludes  with  Lamennais  and 
Liszt  Yet  Emerson,  "  one  of  the  purest  of  men,  dwelt  on 
the  rare  and  beautiful  sentiment  that  runs  through  George 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     405 

Sand's  '  Consuelo.'  And  who  can  deny  the  evidence  of  keen 
politick  insight,  lofty  ideas,  and  pure  morality  in  the 
writings  of  Mary  Wollstoneeraft,  Frances  Wright,  and 
George  Eliot  ? "  *  People  still  read  "  Consuelo;'  even  as  they 
read  "  Les  Trois  Mousquetaires."  They  also  read  w  Les  Con- 
templations "  and  even  dip  into  "Le  G^nie  du  Christian- 
isme."  They  ostracise  none  of  the  great  write,rs  because 
there  was  error  in  their  lives.  Besides,  it  must  be  acknow- 
ledged as  true  that  a  counsel  of  perfection,  or  what  we  regard 
as  perfection  from  our  social  standpoint,  may  well  come  from 
the  imperfect.  In  fact  it  could  not  be  otherwise,  since  we 
are  all  imperfect  in  one  or  another  way. 

Thus  to  reject  Zola's  books  and  his  teaching  on  the 
ground  that  there  came  a  lapse  in  his  life  after  fifty  years 
of  strenuous  endeavour  would  be  ridiculous,  for  it  would 
entail  the  rejection  of  hundreds  of  others.  The  subject  may 
be  dismissed,  then,  without  further  comment  from  the  moral 
point  of  view.  Undoubtedly  it  will  always  be  a  source  of 
regret  to  Zola's  friends  that  this  happened,  even  though  it 
satisfied  the  great  craving  of  his  life.  In  spite  of  all  our 
knowledge  of  human  imperfection  we  always  try  to  picture 
an  ideal  being,  and  we  sorrow  when  the  flaw  in  our  ideal  is 
discovered,  even  though  reason  tells  us  that  we  ought  to 
have  been  prepared  for  it. 

That  the  occurrences  referred  to  caused  great  perturbation 
in  Zola's  life  goes  without  saying ;  and  as,  about  this  time  or 
soon  afterwards,  some  change  appeared  in  his  writings,  a 
certain  co-relation  between  that  change  and  his  domestic 
troubles  might  be  suspected.  But  beyond  what  is  apparent 
in  parts  of  u  Le  Docteur  Pascal,"  and  much  later  in  "  F^con- 

1  "  Westminster  Keview,"  January,  1891,  "  Patriotism  and  Chastity,"  p.  2. 


406    ^MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 


f>  and  "  Travail,1*  Zola's  writings  show  no  trace  of  the 
passing  storm*  It  was  assumed  by  some  critics,  after  the 
completion  of  the  Eougon-Macquart  novels,  that  "a  new 
Zola  "  had  arisen,  the  man  who  wrote  **  Lourdes,"  "  Borne,"  and 
"  Paris  *  being,  said  they,  evidently  very  different  from  the 
one  who  had  penned  "  Nana,"  "Pofc-Bouille,JI  and  "  La  Terre." 
It  was  even  asserted  that  this  novelist  who  had  been  so 
obscene  was  becoming  quite  moral,  at  least  for  a  man  with 
such  shocking  antecedents.  But  the  inanity  of  that  conten- 
tion is  demonstrated  by  the  facts  of  the  case,  The  so-called 
obscene  books  were  written  by  one  who  led  a  life  of  the 
most  rigid  personal  rectitude,  whereas  the  later  volumes, 
which  were  received  far  more  favourably,  were  the  work  of 
one  whom  passion  had  conquered.  That  should  suffice  to 
show  how  worthless  is  a  certain  Mnd  of  criticism.  More- 
over, any  change  that  was  noticed  in  Zola's  writings  was  in 
one  respect  more  apparent  than  real.  In  some  of  his  books 
he  had  set  down  horrible  and  loathsome  things  because  he 
had  found  them  involved  in  his  subject  Subsequently, 
being  confronted  by  less  mire,  he  naturally  gave  it  less 
prominence.  At  the  same  time  "Le  Docteur  Pascal" 
certainly  marked  a  new  departure  in  his  manner.  In  his 
previous  works,  as  we  have  remarked  before,  he  had 
sunk  his  personality  and  had  never  preached.  In  "Le 
Docteur  Pascal"  he  began  to  do  so,  and  this  gradually 
became  a  habit  with  Mm.  The  reason  is  not  far  to  seek. 
For  more  than  twenty  years  the  critics  had  constantly  said 
to  him:  "If  you  must  show  the  vileness  of  life,  you  should 
at  least  point  the  moral.  You  should  deplore  such  terrible 
things,  denounce  them,  thunder  at  them  in  your  pages.** 
Eemarks  of  that  kind  having  been  repeated  hundreds  of 


tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      407 

times.  It  Is  not  surprising  that  Zola,  who  had  long  felt 
annoyed  at  seeing  his  books  misinterpreted,  should  have 
ended  by  complying  with  the  clamour.  Curiously  enough, 
however,  the  very  critics  who  had  called  on  him  for  moral 
ejaculations,  who  had  begged  for  sermons,  then  became 
mightily  indignant.  "This  man,"  they  said,  "has  no  Imagi- 
nation left ;  he  does  nothing  but  preach,  his  books  are  as  dull 
as  ditch  water.  After  all,  we  liked  'Nana1  better."  Such 
was  the  result  of  Zola's  change  of  manner,  a  result  which 
might  have  been  foreseen. 

After  his  departure  from  England  in  1893,  the  present 
writer  remained  without  news  of  him  for  some  weeks; 
but  in  November  he  wrote  that  he  had  been  ill  and  unable 
to  attend  to  anything:  the  fact  being  that  this  was  a 
critical  time  in  connection  with  his  domestic  affairs. 
Nevertheless  he  gave  some  attention  to  an  opera  which 
his  friend  M,  Alfred  Bruneau  based  on  "L'Attaque  du 
Moulin,"  the  libretto  being  partly  the  work  of  M.  Louis 
Gallet  and  partly  that  of  Zola  himself.  The  first  per- 
formance took  place  at  the  Op^ra  Comique,  then  under 
M.  Carvalho's  management,  on  November  23,  with  a  result 
gratifying  to  all  concerned;  and  Zola  afterwards  turned 
to  the  writing  of  his  novel,  "  Lourdes/'  which  he  intended 
to  make  the  first  of  three  volumes  to  be  called  "  Les  Trois 
Villes,"  that  is,  Lourdes,  Rome,  and  Paris. 

The  writing  of  those  works  was  Inspired  by  the  trend  of 
French  literature  and  also  of  opinion  in  France  at  that 
time.  A  few  years  previously,  on  being  interviewed  on  the 
question  whether  Naturalism  were  an  expiring  school  or 
not,  Zola  had  laughingly  answered  in  the  negative,1  Never- 

l  "EnqnSte  sur  Involution  Litt&raire,"  by  Julea  Huret,  Paris,  1891. 


408        6HILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

theless  be  had  observed  the  rise  of  the  Symbolist,  Occultist, 
and  Decadent  schools,  —  a  wave  of  returning  mysticism,  as 
it  were,  which,  as  he  had  remarked  in  an  address  to  the 
Paris  students,  was  invading  art  as  well  as  literature.  Ko 
little  balderdash  was  being  written  about  the  alleged  bank- 
ruptcy of  science,  Rome  was  coquetting  with  the  Republic, 
there  was  much  talk  of  a  new  Catholicism  adapted  to  the 
modern  world,  the  clergy  were  showing  extreme  activity,  and 
a  good  many  unimrsitaires  and  normaliens,  among  whom 
the  Voltairean  spirit  had  formerly  predominated,  seemed 
won  over  to  the  Church's  side  and  anxious  to  co-operate 
with  it  in  securing  the  return  of  France  to  the  fold,  as  if, 
indeed,  agnosticism  had  been  carried  too  far  and  must  now 
be  checked.  The  Lourdes  and  similar  pilgrimages  repre- 
sented a  notable  phase  of  the  agitation,  and  Zola,  who  had 
attended  them  two  years  running  as  a  spectator,  found  in 
them  some  illustration  of  the  first  of  the  Christian  virtues, 
Faith,  It  thereupon  occurred  to  him  that  Borne  would 
illustrate  Hope,  for  it  was  in  her  and  in  her  pontiff,  Leo 
XIII,  that  all  who  desired  to  see  the  world  reconquered  by 
a  rejuvenated  Catholicism  set  their  hopes.  Finally  Paris 
would  afford  abundant  illustration  of  Charity  in  its  various 
senses.  Now  the  question  whether  religion  might  flourish 
anew  in  France  depended,  at  least  largely,  on  the  practice 
of  the  aforesaid  virtues  and  the  light  in  which  they  were 
regarded  by  the  community  at  large.  Was  the  faith  of 
Lourdes  justified,  was  any  real  hope  to  be  found  in  Rome, 
was  the  charity  of  Paris  adequate  or  not  ?  Zola  returned  a 
negative  answer  to  all  those  questions;  and  at  an  early 
stage  of  the  writing  of  "  Les  Trois  Villes  "  he  resolved  to  sup- 
plement this  series  by  a  further  one  which  would  enunciate 


fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER     409 

the  principles  in  wMch  he  himself  believed,  that  is.  Fruits 
fulness,  Work,  Trath,  and  Justice,  all  springing  from  the 
fundamental  basis  of  Love. 

**  Lourdes f*  gave  Mm  occupation  throughout  the  winter  of 
1893-1894.  It  appeared  first  in  the  "Gil-Bias"  which  paid 
fifty  thousand  francs  for  the  serial  rights,  and  early  in  the 
autumn  of  1894  it  was  issued  as  a  volume,1  whereupon  a 
prelate  of  the  papal  household,  a  certain  Monseigneur  Ri- 
card,  vicar-general  of  the  diocese  of  Air,  in  Provence,  arose 
to  answer  Zola,  which  he  did  in  a  very  blundering  way.* 
The  fathers  of  the  Lourdes  grotto  also  attempted  some  di- 
rect denials  of  Zola's  accusations  of  greed  and  imposture, 
and  being  all  powerful  in  the  town  prevented  the  sale  of 
the  book  there,  while  as  a  crowning  stroke  of  condemnation 
it  was  deferred  to  Rome  and  promptly  placed,  like  some  of 
Zola*s  previous  works,  in  the  famous  "  Indez  librorum  Pro- 
hibitorum."  Once  again,  also,  abusive  letters  rained  upon 
the  author,  some  emanating  from  deluded  believers  in  the 
Lourdes  miracles,  and  others  from  angry  priests  and  monks. 
Several  of  those  correspondents  interlarded  their  effusions 
with  the  language  of  the  gutter,  while  others  contented 
themselves  with  briefly  cursing  the  man  who  presumed  to 
doubt  the  sanctity  of  the  unfortunate  Bernadette,  and  the 
virtues  of  the  spring  which  the  Assumptionist  Fathers 
had  turned  into  a  river  of  gold.  That  money  was  used  in 
part  for  the  purpose  of  subsidising  Leo  XIII,  but  the  bulk 
was  employed  in  fighting  the  French  Republic  with  the 

1  "Lourdes,"  Paris,  Gharpentier,  1894,  ISmo,  598  pages.  Seventy  thou- 
sand copies  sold  on  publication ;  one  hundred  and  fifty-fourth,  thousand  in 
1903. 

a  "La  Yraie  Bernadette  de  Lourdes,"  Paris,  1894. 


410     tmiLE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEE 

object  of  restoring  a  monarchy  under  which  the  Church,  and 
particularly  its  monks,  would  have  been  all  powerful. 

Soon  after  **  Lourdes  **  was  finished  Zola  turned  to  u  Rome,** 
which  necessitated  a  great  deal  of  study.  He  was  immersed 
in  it  when  there  came  an  incident  fraught  with  grave  future 
consequences  for  Prance.  An  artillery  captain  named 
Alfred  Dreyfus,  attached  to  the  General  Staff  of  the  army, 
was  arrested  on  a  charge  of  communicating  military  secrets 
to  the  German  embassy.  The  arrest  took  place  on  October 
15,  1894,  but  did  not  become  known  until  the  end  of  the 
month,  when  it  was  divulged  by  two  newspapers,  "  La  Libre 
Parole  "  and  "  L'Eclair."  Zola  gave  little  or  no  heed  to  it,  for 
quitting  his  books  and  papers  he  was  at  that  very  moment 
preparing  for  a  visit  to  Rome,  which  he  had  projected  for 
some  time  past 

About  the  middle  of  October  he  had  told  Vizetelly,  who 
was  then  with  him  at  M4dan,  that  he  had  some  hope 
the  Pope  would  receive  him,  and  that  he  certainly  intended 
to  apply  for  an  audience.  Vizetelly  gave  publicity  to  this 
statement,  which  was  quoted  on  all  sides.  But  almost  im- 
mediately afterwards,  Vizetelly  having  returned  to  England, 
Zola  on  talking  the  matter  over  with  some  friends  found  that 
no  audience  with  the  Pope  was  possible.  The  reason  was 
simple  enough.  "Lourdes,"  "La  Faute  de  I'AbbS  Mouret," 
and  several  other  volumes  of  his  writings  —  just  like  the 
novels  of  Dumas  pfoe,  that  u  accursed  Garibaldian  "  —  were 
in  the  "Index,"  and  accordingly,  before  even  applying  for  an 
audience,  he  would  have  to  withdraw  and  annihilate  those 
books  so  far  as  lay  in  his  power,  and  make  a  full  submis- 
sion to  Holy  Church. 

Such  were  the  facts,    A  little  investigation  of  the  sub- 


6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER   411 

ject  showed  peremptorily  that  the  popes  made  ii  an  inflex- 
ible rale  to  receive  no  authors  whose  writings  figured  among 
the  prohibited  books  unless  and  until  those  authors  had  with- 
drawn their  writings  and  submitted.  AbW  Alfred  Loisy, 
the  author  of  *'  La  Question  Biblique  **  and  *  L'Evaagile  et 
FEglise,"  has  of  more  recent  times  discovered  the  prod- 
dure  to  be  such  as  is  here  stated.  He,  like  Zola's  AbW 
Pierre  Froment,  repaired  to  Rome  to  plead  his  cause,  but 
though  cardinals  may  have  received  him,  he  was  not  al- 
lowed to  approach  the  Pope.  Zola,  in  his  "  Rome,"  used  a 
novelist's  license  when  he  brought  AbW  Pierre  face  to  face 
with  Leo  XIII ;  and  all  readers  of  the  book  are  aware  that 
the  interview  is  pictured  as  a  secret  one,  obtained  by  surrep- 
titious means,  such  as  Zola  could  never  have  employed. 
Had  he  asked  for  an  audience  he  must  have  done  so 
through  the  usual  channel,  that  of  the  French  embassy  to 
the  Vatican ;  and  we  have  before  us  that  embassy's  express 
statement  that  no  such  application  was  ever  made.  Thus, 
contrary  to  the  assertions  which  went  the  round  of  the 
world's  press,  Zola  did  not  ask  to  see  the  Pope,  and  the 
Pope  did  not  have  occasion  to  refuse  him. 

Leaving  Paris  at  the  end  of  October,  he  remained  in 
Rome  till  December  15.  He  applied  for  an  audience  at  the 
Quirinal,  and  was  received  with  a  gracious  cordiality  by 
King  Umberto.  Both  the  French  ambassador  to  the  Italian 
court  and  the  ambassador  to  the  Vatican  placed  themselves 
at  his  disposal,  and  furnished  him  either  personally  or 
through  their  attaches  with  a  quantity  of  information. 
Some  of  the  Italian  ministers  took  a  similar  course.  He 
was  welcomed,  too,  in  several  drawing-rooms.  M.  Hubert,  the 
great  French  painter,  accompanied  him  on  his  visits  to  the 


412       £llILB  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

Palatine,  the  Sistine  Chapel,  the  rianu  of  Raffaelle,  and 
the  Vatican  Museum.  Signer  Bernabei,  director-general  of 
the  excavations,  accompanied  him  on  other  occasions,  and 
supplied  him  with  a  quantity  of  notes*  As  for  the  foolish 
tale  that  he  hribed  Vatican  servants  for  information,  a  tale 
which  went  the  round  of  the  press,  it  was  purely  imaginative. 
With  two  ambassadors,  half  a  dozen  attacMs,  and  a  score  of 
prominent  Italian  officials  at  his  disposal,  Zola  had  no  need 
to  apply  to  any  servants  whatever. 

On  quitting  Rome  he  betook  himself  to  Venice  and 
Brescia  with  the  object  of  visiting  the  Italian  members 
of  his  family,  the  Venetian  Petrapolis  and  Frattas,  and 
particularly  his  cousin,  Carlo  Zola,  then  a  judge  of  the 
Brescian  Appeal  Court  Venice  gave  him  a  public  recep- 
tion, and  at  Brescia  his  cousin  greeted  him  with  open  arms. 
Unfortunately,  though  the  novelist,  assisted  by  his  know- 
ledge of  Latin  and  Provencal,  was  able  to  read  Italian  fairly 
accurately,  he  could  not  speak  it;  and  as  on  the  other 
hand  the  judge  knew  no  French,  an  interpreter  had  to  be 
provided.  In  spite  of  this  drawback  the  intercourse  was 
very  pleasant,  and  when  after  a  sojourn  of  some  days  at 
Brescia  Zola  set  out  on  his  journey  to  Paris,  he  repeatedly 
promised  to  return.  He  was  never  able  to  do  so,  but  his 
wife,  who  revisited  Italy  on  more  than  one  occasion  sub- 
sequently, took  care  to  keep  up  the  family  intercourse 
which  had  been  renewed  after  the  lapse  of  so  many  years* 

While  Zola  was  visiting  Rome  the  French  military  au- 
thorities had  been  busy  with  the  case  of  Captain  Dreyfus, 
but  the  latter's  court-martial  did  not  begin  till  December  19, 
that  is,  about  the  time  of  the  novelist's  return  to  Paris ;  the 
degradation  of  the  unfortunate  officer  following  on  January 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  BEFORMEB      413 

5,  1895.  Zola,  however,  was  now  busy  classifying  all  the 
materials  he  had  brought  from  Borne  and  revolving  IE  his 
mind  the  tremendous  task  which  lay  before  him.  Thus, 
once  again,  he  gave  comparatively  little  attention  to  the 
proceedings  against  Dreyfus.  Moreover  there  was  nothing 
in  the  newspapers  to  indicate  any  probability  of  a  miscar- 
riage of  justice.  Like  everybody  else,  —  except  the  members 
of  the  Dreyfus  family,  whom  he  did  not  know,  —  Zola 
assumed  that  the  convicted  officer  was  guilty,  and  there- 
upon dismissed  the  matter  from  his  mind. 

Writing  to  Vizetelly  on  January  11,  he  said  that  he  hoped 
to  make  a  Borne  "  a  work  of  European  interest,  and  if  pos- 
sible he  should  include  in  it  some  account  of  the  wonderful 
progress  which  the  Catholic  Church  claimed  to  be  effecting 
in  Great  Britain  and  the  United  States  of  America.  He 
hoped  the  book  would  be  shorter  than  "Lourdes,"  and  he 
intended  to  keep  it  "absolutely  chaste,  though  very  pas- 
sionnS,  for  while  Abb4  Froment  would  be  the  central  figure, 
a  very  tragic  dramepasnonnel  would  be  unfolded  beside  him." 
However,  the  historic,  descriptive,  and  controversial  parts  of 
the  work  expanded  in  Zola's  hands,  and  far  from  "  Borne  " 
proving  shorter  than  "  Lourdes,"  it  exceeded  that  book  in 
length  by  a  hundred  and  fifty  pages.  The  drame  pasnonnel 
which  was  to  have  been  so  prominent  a  feature,  became 
nearly  lost  among  the  surrounding  matter,  so  that  by  the 
time  the  work  was  finished  little  suggested  that  it  was  in- 
tended to  be  a  novel  At  the  same  time  it  was  certainly  one 
of  the  books  on  which  Zola  expended  most  time  and  study. 
He  had  begun  to  examine  his  subject  in  the  summer  of  1894, 
and  his  proofs  were  not  finally  passed  for  press  till  the  end 
of  February,  1896.  It  may  be  said  that  he  gave  the  whole 


414         ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  EEFORMER 

of  1895  to  the  writing  of  f*  Borne."  As  he  had  not  been 
to  remain  very  long  In  the  Eternal  City,  Madame  Zola 
returned  thither  to  collect  further  information  on  various 
points,  and  a  perfect  mountain  of  documents  at  last  encom- 
passed the  struggling  novelist,  who  had  no  little  difficulty 
in  shaping  his  course.  In  December,  1895,  the  work  began 
to  appear  as  ^feuilleton  in  *  Le  Journal/*  the  organ  of  Zola's 
friend,  M.  Femand  Xau,  and  about  the  same  time  an  Eng- 
lish translation  was  issued  by  various  provincial  and  colo- 
nial journals,  Via&etelly  having  to  perform  a  tour  de  force  in 
order  to  ensure  this  early  publication.  In  the  case  of 
**  Lourdes  n  he  had  been  assisted  by  his  personal  knowledge 
of  the  spot,  and  a  similar  knowledge  helped  him  with 
"Borne,"  the  actual  translation  of  which  had  to  be  made 
in  about  nine  weeks  in  order  to  meet  commercial  require- 
ments. That  little  fact  will  serve  to  illustrate  the  remarks 
made  in  a  previous  chapter  concerning  the  imperfection  of 
the  translations  issued  under  the  conditions  which  nowa- 
days prevail  in  the  publishing  world. 

When  "  Rome  "  appeared  as  a  volume  early  in  the  spring 
of  1896,1  M.  Gaston  Deschamps,  writing  in  "Le  Temps/* 
roundly  accused  Zola  of  plagiarism,  and  it  is  certain  that 
here  and  there  "Borne"  contained  sentences  taken  from 
Firmin  Didot's  publication,  "  Le  Vatican/'  and  Gaston  Bois- 
sier's  "  Promenades  archdologiques."  Zola,  on  being  accused, 
replied  in  "  Le  Figaro  "  to  the  effect  that  when  he  was  writ- 
ing a  book  he  invariably  consulted  every  available  work 

i  "Borne,"  Paris,  Charpentier  and  Fasquelle,  1896,  18mo,  751  pages. 
One  hundredth  thousand  on  sale  in  1898  ;  one  hundred  and  sixth  thousand 
in  1903.  In  the  case  of  this  book  and  subsequent  ones,  the  sales  from  1897 
onward  were  largely  affected  by  the  unpopularity  which  Zola  reaped  from  his 
participation  in  the  Dreyfus  case. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  415 

on  his  subject.     He  of  his 

novels  in  review,  mentioning  the  by  which 

useful  to  him,  aad  also  naming  the  politicians, 
merchants,  scientists,  lawyers,  architects,  and  others  who 
had  provided  him  with  detailed  memoranda  on  various 
points.  For  instance  Jules  Ferry  had  given  him  some 
Information  about  the  Haussmannization  of  Paris  for  "  La 
Guide/1  M.  Chauchard,  the  director  of  the  "  Grands  Maga- 
slns  du  Louvre/1  had  largely  assisted  Mm  with  u  Au  Bon- 
heur  des  Dames/*  M.  Edmond  Perrier,  the  scientist,  had 
helped  him  with  the  passages  about  seaweed  and  bromide 
of  potassium  in  "  La  Joie  de  Vivre,"  M.  Frantz-Jourdain,  the 
eminent  architect,  had  constantly  befriended  him  in  archi- 
tectural matters,  M.  Henri  C6ard  had  supplied  Mm  with 
notes  on  music,  and  M.  Thy^baut  with  consultations  on 
points  of  law,  while  the  theory  of  an  "  elixir  of  life,"  em- 
bodied in  "  Le  Docteur  Pascal,"  had  been  built  for  him  by 
his  friend  Dr.  Maurice  de  Fleury.  Indeed  Zola  claimed 
that  he  had  never  discussed  a  scientific  question  or  written 
about  an  illness  in  his  books  without  first  taking  the  opin- 
ion of  scientists  and  medical  men.  But  he  claimed  that  he 
had  assimilated,  adapted,  and  in  a  sense  transmuted  all  the 
information  he  had  derived  from  persons  and  books.  As 
for  "Kome"  he  was  charged  with  having  borrowed  some 
sentences  from  two  or  three  well-known  works,  but,  in  fact, 
he  had  consulted  some  scores  of  volumes,  the  titles  of  many 
of  which  he  gave.  Briefly,  he  pictured  himself  as  an  archi- 
tect or  a  sculptor,  and  his  materials  as  building  stones  or 
modelling  clay ;  suggesting  also  the  example  of  those  mas- 
ters of  the  Eenaissance  who  employed  a  swarm  of  workers 
to  prepare  their  paints,  their  "  grounds,"  and  so  forth.  And 


416  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

he  contended  that  what  he  had  done  was  perfectly  legiti- 
mate, the  only  question  being  whether  he  had  so  used  his 
materials  as  to  produce  a  substantial,  harmonious  result,  and 
had  infused  into  it  the  spirit  of  life.  "  If  it  were  usual,"  he 
added,  lfto  indicate  one's  authorities  in  a  novel,  I  would 
willingly  stud  the  bottom  of  my  pages  with  foot-notes.  And 
if  a  line  from  a  fellow-writer  remains  intact  in  one  of  my 
pages,  this  simply  proves  that  I  am  not  hypocrite  enough  to 
hide  my  borrowing,  which  it  would  be  so  easy  to  conceal.'* 

In  spite  of  that  last  remark  there  is  reason  to  believe  that, 
in  the  case  of  "Rome,"  Zola  had  a  difficulty  in  wrestling 
with  his  mountain  of  "  notes,"  Mid  that  when  confronted  by 
some  memorandum  made  many  months  previously,  he  some- 
times imagined  its  phraseology  to  be  his  own  and  not  the 
suctual  language  of  one  of  his  authorities.  It  seems  qiiite 
likely  that  if  the  latter  had  been,  patent  to  Mm  he  would 
have  paraphrased  the  memorandum.  With  respect  to  the 
actual  principle  for  which  he  contended  it  is  obvious  that 
the  novelist  possessed  of  any  conscientiousness  ought  often 
to  read  up  certain  subjects  and  consult  a  variety  of  author- 
ities. It  is  indeed  a  pity  that  the  practice  is  not  followed 
more  generally,  for  one  would  then  be  spared  the  thousands 
of  blunders  in  elementary  questions  of  law,  science,  history, 
precedence,  titles,  etc.,  which  appear  in  so  much  contem- 
porary fiction. 

Zola's  defence  with  respect  to  "  Rome "  will  be  found  in 
a  volume  called  "Nouvelle  Canipagne,"1  which  contains  a 
number  of  articles  he  contributed  to  "  Le  Figaro  "  in  1896. 
They  are  of  all  sorts.  The  first,  on  the  opportunism  of  Leo 
XIII,  foreshadows  the  denunciation  of  the  Roman  Catholic 

*  "KouYeHe  Campagne,"  Paris,  E.  Fasquelle,  1897,  18mo,  286  pages. 


Photo  by  V.  R.  Vizeteily 

Ernilc  Zola  writing  "Fecondite"  at  Wakon-on-Thames,    1898 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER    417 

Church  which  eventually  appeared  in  "  Y4rit£  " ;  while  an- 
other, called  "Depopulation,"  contains  the  germ  of  "F£con- 
dit&"  There  are  various  papers  on  the  professional  interests 
of  literary  men ;  a  couple  on  Zola's  love  of  animals,  which  was 
very  marked  throughout  his  life ;  and  an  incisive  one,  called 
"  The  Toad/*  in  which  he  railed  at  the  people  who  sent  him 
abusive  letters  and  the  newspaper  men  who  pursued  him  with 
pinpricks.  Then,  in  a  paper  on  a  Parisian  clairvoyante,  a  cer- 
tain Mademoiselle  Couesdon,  who  pretended  to  be  in  direct 
communication  with  the  archangel  Gabriel,  he  commented  on 
the  childishness  of  the  imposture  and  deplored  the  senseless 
eagerness  with  which  people  imagined  they  would  discover 
the  secrets  of  the  invisible  by  consulting  a  semi-hysterical 
girl.  At  the  same  time  he  admitted  that  such  was  the  trend 
of  the  modern  mind;  and,  after  all,  as  people  could  only 
satisfy  their  yearnings  in  this  way,  one  must  let  them  do  so, 
said  he,  pending  the  time  when  science  would  nourish  the 
world  with  the  bread  of  truth.  However,  the  most  notable 
article  in  the  volume  was  certainly  the  one  entitled  "For 
the  Jews,"  in  which  for  the  first  time  Zola  gave  expression 
to  his  surprise  and  disgust  at  the  progress  of  anti-Semitism 
in  France.  In  that  campaign,  the  Dreyfus  case,  which  at 
first  had  been  merely  an  incident,  was  soon  to  become 
everything,  for  Colonel  Picquart  was  now  (July,  1896) 
making  important  discoveries  which  convinced  him  of  the 
innocence  of  Dreyfus  and  the  guilt  of  Esterhazy.  That  was 
as  yet  unknown  to  Zola,  who  did  not  begin  to  intervene 
until  late  in  the  autumn  of  the  following  year.  Thus,  in 
protesting  against'the  anti-Jewish  agitation  which  had  been 
growing  and  spreading  for  some  years  past,  he  treated  the 
question  from  a  general  point  of  view  without  mentioning 

27 


418       fiMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST   AND   REFORMER 

the  unhappy  prisoner  of  Devil's  Island.  And  here  one  may 
well  call  a  halt  to  consider  the  state  of  affairs  which  had 
prompted  'Zola  to  raise  his  voice  on  behalf  of  a  community 
with  which  he  had  no  connection  whatever,  either  racial  or 
religious,  but  which  he  defended  by  virtue  entirely  of  the 
guiding  principles  of  his  life,  —  the  principles  of  truth  and 
justice. 


XIII 

THE  DBEYFUS  CASE 
1894-1900 

The  growth  of  anti-Semitism  in  France  —  The  Jews  in  Paris — The  Union 
Generale —  Drumont,  "La  France  Juive,"  and  "La  Libre  Parole"  — 
Clerical  plotting  —  Accusations  against  the  Jews  —  Anti-Semitism  in 
the  army  —  Zola  begins  his  novel  "  Paris  "  —  His  idea  of  a  novel  on  ballet 
girls — "Messidor"  —  Facts  and  documents  concerning  Dreyfus  sub- 
mitted to  Zola  —  He  resolves  to  intervene  —  His  articles  in  "  Le  Figaro  " 
—  His  "  Letter  to  Young  Men  "  —  He  is  hissed  at  Daudet's  funeral  —  His 
"  Letter  to  France  "  —  The  Esterhazy  court-martial  —  Character  of  Ester- 
hazy  —  Zola  writes  his  letter  "  J'Accuse  "  —  Some  extracts  from  it  —  Its 
reception  —  Riots  in  the  provinces  and  Algeria  —  Incidents  of  the  turmoil 
in  Paris  —  Zola  prosecuted  —  Foreign  sympathy  —  His  counsel,  Maitre 
Labori. —  Clericals  and  Nationalists  at  work  —  The  trial  at  the  Paris 
Assize  Court  —  A  few  of  the  facts  it  elicited  —  Zola  mobbed  —  His  body- 
guard —  Madame  Zola  at  the  trial  —  Zola's  declaration  to  the  jury  —  A 
glance  at  Labori*  s  great  speech  —  Reception  of  the  verdict — Publication 
of  "  Paris  "  —  Zola's  conviction  quashed  —  New  proceedings  —  First  trial 
at  Versailles  —  Incidents  of  the  campaign  —  The  handwriting  experts 
secure  judgment  against  Zola  —  Zola's  letter  to  M.  Brisson — Second 
trial  at  Versailles  —  Zola  leaves  for  London  —  His  sojourn  in  England  — 
His  English  homes  —  Some  of  his  notes  to  Vizetelly  —  Death  of  his  pet 
dog  —  His  visitors  —  Incidents  in  France  —  Zola's  return  to  Paris  —  His 
manifesto  "  Justice  "  —  Return  of  Dreyfus  to  France  —  The  Rennes  court- 
martial —  Zola's  manifesto  "The  Fifth  Act"  — His  letter  to  Madame 
Dreyfus  —  Dreyfus  pardoned  —  "  Fe*condite  "  published  —  Zola's  trial 
repeatedly  postponed —  Zola's  protests  against  the  Amnesty  —  His  sacri- 
fices for  the  cause  —  The  medal  struck  in  his  honour. 

THE  emancipation  of  the  French  Jews  dates  from  the 
great  Eevolution.  At  the  assembling  of  the  States-General 
in  1789  they  entered  on  a  brief  and  victorious  struggle,  in 
which  their  chief  ally,  curiously  enough,  was  a  Catholic 


420      tMILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST   AND   REFORMER 

priest,  the  famous  Abbd  Gr^goire.  From  that  period  until 
the  Third  Republic,  established  in  1870,  there  was  never,  it 
would  seem,  any  really  considerable  Jewish  question  in 
France.  A  little  trouble  occurred  in  the  time  of  the  first 
Napoleon.  Some  Jews  were  certainly  mixed  up  in  the 
financial  scandals  of  Louis  Philippe's  reign,  and  Toussenel's 
work,  "  Les  Juifs,  Rois  de  I'Spoque,"  was  the  result.  Ras- 
cality was  occasionally  manifested  also  by  some  of  the  Jews 
who  became  prominent  in  finance  during  the  Second  Em- 
pire ;  but  the  presence  of  the  Jews  generally,  in  the  midst 
of  the  community,  excited  no  alarm.  After  the  war  of 
1870,  however,  the  number  of  Jews  in  France  increased 
considerably,  the  new  arrivals  being  chiefly  of  German, 
Austrian,  Swiss,  or  Alsatian  nationality.  Most  of  them 
settled  in  Paris,  where  they  engaged  in  a  variety  of  profes- 
sions and  avocations,  showing  themselves,  as  a  rule,  shrewd, 
hard-working,  and  orderly  members  of  society.  About  the 
same  time  some  thousands  of  French  Jews — participating 
in  a  movement  which  characterised  the  earlier  years  of 
the  Third  Republic,  the  so-called  conquest  of  northern  by 
southern  France  —  also  flocked  to  the  capital.  "Le  Midi 
monte"  was  in  those  days  a  favourite  saying,  echoed  by 
Alphonse  Daudet  in  his  "Numa  Roumestan"  with  refer- 
ence to  all  the  Gascons  and  Provengals  who  then  invaded 
Paris  and  came  to  the  front  there  in  politics,  art,  literature, 
and  social  life.  The  descendants  of  the  Spanish  and  Portu- 
guese Jews,  who  in  the  sixteenth  century  had  settled  in 
southern  France,  at  Bordeaux,  Avignon,  and  other  cities, 
joined  in  the  great  migration  to  the  capital,  and  thus  ten  years 
after  the  Franco-German  war  there  were  three  or  four  times 
as  many  Jews  in  Paris  as  there  had  been  previously. 


^MILE  ZOLA,   NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      421 

But  they  were  peaceable  citizens  and  for  the  most  part 
stanch  Republicans.  They  remembered  that  the  Revolu- 
tion had  given  them  emancipation,  and  they  did  not  desire 
the  restoration  of  any  monarchy  which  might  take  it  from 
them,  or  of  any  empire  with  an  adventurous  policy  which 
might  plunge  the  country  into  war  and  interfere  with  their 
avocations.  Many  of  them,  no  doubt,  had  a  comparatively 
low  ideal  in  view,  that  of  quietly  prospering  in  their  business ; 
but  an  element  of  that  kind  is  desirable  in  a  community 
like  that  of  Paris,  which  numbers  many  firebrands  in  its 
midst.  Besides,  it  is  not  too  much  to  say  that,  on  more 
than  one  occasion,  the  Jews  of  Paris  helped  to  save  the 
Republic  by  throwing  all  their  influence  into  the  balance 
on  the  side  of  law  and  order,  as,  for  instance,  during  the 
Boulangist  turmoil. 

However,  for  some  years  previous  to  that  agitation,  an  anti- 
Jewish  feeling  had  been  growing  up  in  Paris.  The  ultra- 
Catholics,  the  Royalists,  and  other  malcontents  resented  the 
spread  of  Jewish  influence ;  and  two  financiers,  named  Bon- 
toux and  F4der,  availed  themselves  of  that  disposition  to 
found  a  great  Christian  Bank,  the  Union  G6ndrale,  which,  it 
was  hoped,  would  deprive  the  Jewish  —  and  also  the  Protes- 
tant—  financiers  of  a  large  proportion  of  their  customers. 
Pope  Leo  XIII  blessed  that  bank,  and  invested  in  it  some 
millions  of  francs  —  the  fruits  of  Peter's  pence  —  which  the 
pious  Bontoux  promised  to  restore  to  him  fourfold.  But 
the  director  of  the  Union  G^n&rale  unluckily  fell  out  with 
a  great  financier,  M.  Lebaudy,  the  millionaire  sugar  refiner, 
who  though  he  was  nominally  a  Catholic  cared  nothing  for 
the  advancement  of  the  Church  or  of  the  French  aristocracy, 
which  had  invested  large  sums  of  money  in  the  Bontoux 


422      6MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

bank.  At  last,  after  some  prodigious  Bourse  gambling, — 
such  as  Zola  described  in  "L*  Argent,"  —  the  Union  G£n&- 
rale  was  smashed  by  M.  Lebaudy,  who  raked  in  by  far 
the  greater  part  of  the  spoils. 

Undoubtedly  there  were  some  Jewish  and  also  Protes- 
tant financiers  with  him,  but  it  was  he  who  engineered  the 
work  of  destruction  which  ruined  several  members  of 
the  French  aristocracy,  and  swallowed  up  the  savings  of 
many  good  Catholics  in  modest  circumstances  who  had 
foolishly  taken  financial  advice  from  their  priests.  Nine  out 
of  ten  attributed  the  disaster  to  the  Jews  exclusively,  and  it 
was  virtually  from  that  hour  that  people  began  to  talk  of 
the  so-called  Jewish  question.  It  was  discussed  at  first  in 
the  Royalist  and  Clerical  newspapers,  which  pictured  the 
Israelites  as  the  great  enemies  of  those  who  wished  to 
restore  France  to  her  ancient  kings  and  her  ancient  faith. 
In  another  way  the  cry  was  taken  up  by  some  of  the 
Radicals  and  Socialists  opposed  to  Gambetta,  in  whose 
entourage  several  Jews  figured  prominently.  These  men, 
it  was  said,  had  nobbled  the  ex-dictator  and  were  preying 
upon  France.  Thus  the  "question"  gradually  spread, 
assisted  largely  by  the  many  unpopular  tergiversations 
of  the  Opportunist  party,  first  in  Gambetta's  time,  and  then 
over  a  term  of  years,  some  folk  detecting  the  hand  of  the 
Jews,  precisely  as  others  detected  that  of  the  Jesuits,  in 
everything  that  happened. 

Moreover  books  were  written  on  the  question.  Under 
the  title  of  "  Les  Rois  de  la  R&publique,"  Toussenel's  forgotten 
work  was  hashed  up  for  popular  consumption;  and  about 
the  time  when  General  Boulanger  was  coming  to  the  front 
(1886),  there  appeared  a  book  called  "La  France  Juive," 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      423 

written  by  a  certain  Bdouard  Drumont,  a  scholarly  man, 
wlio  had  long  dabbled  in  antiquarian  research.  It  so  hap- 
pened that  nature  had  given  Drumont  a  characteristically 
Jewish  face,  while  his  slovenly  habits  had  imparted  to  him 
much  of  the  appearance  of  one  of  those  "old  clo'"  men, 
who,  forty  or  fifty  years  ago,  still  perambulated  the  streets 
of  London  and  Paris.  He  has  repeatedly  disclaimed,  how- 
ever, all  connection  with  Jewry ;  and  his  personal  appear- 
ance may  therefore  be  merely  some  spiteful  freak  on  the 
part  of  nature,  which  has  cast  him  in  the  very  mould  of 
some  of  those  whom  he  loathes  and  denounces. 

"  La  France  Juive, "  which  as  an  attack  on  the  so-called 
chosen  race  has  never  been  surpassed  in  virulence  and  men- 
dacity, created  an  uproar  in  some  political  and  financial 
circles ;  but  it  did  not  at  first  make  much  impression  on  the 
general  public.  The  Panama  scandals  began,  however ;  mil- 
lions of  money  were  lost,  the  victims  often  being  needy 
people ;  and  helped  by  the  circumstance  that  three  or  four  of 
the  principal  culprits  in  those  affairs  were  unquestionably 
Jews,  and  by  the  reissue  of  large  portions  of  "  La  Trance 
Juive"  in"Le  Petit  Journal,"  Drumont  and  his  writings 
achieved  great  notoriety.  A  newspaper  established  by  him, 
"La  Libre  Parole,"  became  the  recognised  organ  of  anti- 
Semitism  in  Paris ;  and  as  this  journal  was  financed  by  a 
certain  M.  Odelin,  the  administrator  of  the  famous  Jesuit 
school  in  the  Rue  des  Postes,  one  may  conclude  that  at  an 
early  stage  at  least  some  part  of  the  French  clergy  gave 
support  to  the  agitation ;  for  the  position  of  M.  Odelin  as 
a  mere  intermediary,  or  man  of  straw,  was  notorious. l 

1  It  was  proved,  in  a  court  of  justice,  during  the  proceedings  taken  by 
the  French  government  against  the  Assumptionist  Fathers. 


424    £MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

As  time  elapsed  the  attitude  of  the  Clericals  became  yet 
more  pronounced.  Pope  Leo  XIII  made  advances  to  the 
French  Republic.  From  his  standpoint  they  may  have 
been  sincere  ;  but  in  any  case  they  tended  to  the  supremacy 
of  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  in  France.  On  their  side, 
the  French  Reactionaries,  clergy  and  religious  orders  as  well 
as  laymen,  could  not  give  any  frank  and  loyal  support  to 
the  papal  policy  such  as  it  was  publicly  stated  to  be,  for  it 
was  foreign  to  their  ideas,  sympathies,  and  aspirations.  If 
they  made  some  outward  show  of  acquiescence,  this  was 
only  with  the  secret  object  of  obtaining  the  mastery  by 
feigning  friendship  and  afterwards  destroying  the  Repub- 
lican regime.  But  the  Republic  of  1848  was  not  forgotten ; 
the  clergy  had  then  adhered  to  the  new  order  of  things  the 
better  to  strangle  it ;  and  thus,  in  spite  of  all  the  fair  words 
of  Leo  XIII  and  the  protestations  of  those  who  professed 
that  they  had  rallied  to  the  Republic  in  all  sincerity,  the 
more  clear-sighted  Republicans,  like  the  advanced  Radicals 
and  the  Socialists,  remained  full  of  distrust  Some  years 
elapsed  before  matters  really  took  shape.  At  first,  indeed, 
the  Pope  merely  coquetted  with  the  Republic,  reserving  a 
formal  pronouncement  of  his  adhesion  until  an  apparently 
decisive  moment,  and  the  clergy  worked  somewhat  stealthily, 
assisted  by  those  university  men  and  others  who  abetted  or 
accepted  the  retour  offensif  of  mysticism  in  literature.  Then, 
as  time  went  by,  the  residue  of  the  Boulangist  party  raised 
its  head  to  propound  various  theories  of  Nationalism,  Milita- 
rism, and  anti-Parliamentarism,  to  the  last  of  which  the 
Panama  scandals  lent  some  force.  For  many  years,  un- 
doubtedly, the  trend  of  the  masses  had  been  towards  free 
thought,  but  the  sentiments  of  Nationalism  and  Chauvinisme 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      425 

appealed  to  many.  The  clergy  had  been  striving  to  win 
France  back  to  the  fold  by  such  devices  as  the  Sacred  Heart 
of  Jesus,  the  Lourdes  miracles,  and  the  money-boxes  of 
Saint  Antony,  but  whatever  success  might  be  achieved  by 
those  means  here  and  there,  it  was  not  great  enough  to 
satisfy  priestly  aspirations.  To  all  appearance  there  was  not 
sufficient  faith  left  among  the  masses  for  supernatural  con- 
siderations to  influence  them  in  the  required  degree.  Only 
earthly  matters  seemed  to  interest  them,  and  it  followed, 
therefore,  that  these  must  be  put  to  use.  Thus  the  clergy 
aided,  abetted,  and  finally  slipped  into  the  Nationalist  move- 
ment, which  seemed  the  one  most  likely  to  yield  the  desired 
result. 

It  has  been  indicated  that  the  great  bulk  of  Jewish  influ- 
ence had  hitherto  been  cast  on  the  side  of  the  Eepublic  ;  and 
thus,  although  the  Freemasons  and  the  Protestants  were 
also  regarded  as  enemies  by  the  Clericals,  it  was  felt  that 
they  might  be  dealt  with  later,  and  that  the  first  thing,  the 
principal  thing,  was  to  destroy  the  power  of  the  Jews.  The 
ground,  then,  was  gradually  prepared  for  a  campaign. 
Helped  by  the  Panama  scandals,  *  La  Libre  Parole,"  follow- 
ing "  La  France  Juive,"  neglected  no  opportunity  to  traduce 
the  Jews  generally.1  The  Nationalist  journals  joined  in 
the  outcry,  pointing  out  that  many  of  the  Jews  domiciled  in 
France  bore  German  names,  and  arguing  that,  although 
they  often  asserted  they  were  Alsatians,  the  assertion  was 
usually  a  lie.  In  some  instances,  perhaps,  they  conspired 
with  foreign  Jews ;  and  at  all  events  they  formed  an  im- 

1  It  was  for  a  while  opposed  by  a  journal  entitled  "La  Vraie  Parole," 
established  by  Dr.  Singer,  subsequently  the  initiator  of  the  well-known 
"Jewish  Encyclopaedia."  As  time  elapsed  "  La  Libre  Parole  "  was  reinforced 
by  another  scurrilous  organ,  *  *  L'Anti-Juif." 


426       $MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND   KEFORMER 

perium  in  imperio,  clinging  to  their  own  kith  and  kin,  their 
particular  rites  and  usages,  leading,  as  it  were,  a  life 
apart  from  the  rest  of  the  community.  Briefly,  they  were 
not  Frenchmen,  and  were  therefore  not  entitled  to  a  French- 
man's rights. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  many  thousands  of  the  Jews  domiciled 
in  Paris  did  not  adhere  strictly  to  Jewish  practices.  In  the 
financial  world  several  prominent  families  had  not  only 
become  Catholic,  but  had  contracted  matrimonial  alliances 
with  the  French  aristocracy ;  while  the  whole  tendency  of 
those  whom  one  may  call  the  Boulevardian  Jews,  the 
members  of  the  liberal  professions,  the  authors,  journalists, 
artists,  and  actors,  was  towards  free  thought  and  an  inter- 
mingling with  the  bulk  of  the  community.1  In  fact,  in  the 
present  writer's  opinion,  before  the  more  violent  explosion  of 
anti-Semitism  in  France,  Paris  was  the  city  where  one  saw 
most  sign  of  a  blending  of  the  Jews  with  the  rest  of  the 
population  —  a  very  slow  and  gradual  blending,  no  doubt, 
but  none  the  less  evident  to  careful  observers. 

But  that  was  not  taken  into  account  by  the  Clerical  and 
the  Nationalist  leaders  in  the  campaign  which  both  parties 
carried  on,  not,  perhaps,  by  virtue  of  any  formal  alliance,  but 
because  both  desired  an  effective  war-cry  which  would  appeal 
to  popular  passions  and  gain  them  recruits.  In  the  end  the 
Nationalists,  though  they  denied  it,  were  generally  directed 
by  the  leaders  of  the  Clerical  party,  who  were  men  of  much 
greater  shrewdness  and  ability  than  the  D4roulfedes,  the 
Millevoyes,  the  Haberts,  and  the  G-uMns,  and  who  thus 
contrived,  in  an  indirect  way,  to  employ  the  Nationalist 
movement  for  their  own  advantage.  Both  parties  had  the 
same  immediate  object  in  view  —  the  destruction  of  the  Ee- 
1  The  same  may  be  said  of  many  of  the  scientists. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMEE       427 

public,  such  as  it  existed  —  and  thus  they  could  well  work 
together ;  but  the  Clerical  leaders  were  resolved  that,  what- 
ever might  be  the  subsequent  form  of  government,  the  real 
mastery  should  belong  to  Holy  Church.  Moreover  some 
Nationalists  were  Clericals  also.  In  1891  D£roul£de,  the 
Nationalist  chief,  expressly  accused  the  Jews  of  trying  to 
" dechristianise "  France;  and  in  the  following  year  a 
journal  belonging  to  Deputy  Delahaye,  another  Nationalist, 
fabricated  a  charge  of  "  ritual  murder,"  perpetrated,  it  was 
alleged,  at  Chatellerault.  A  little  later  the  Marquis  de 
Mor&s,  Clerical,  Nationalist,  and  anti-Semite  all  in  one,  in- 
sulted and  challenged  a  number  of  Jewish  army  officers. 
"  La  Libre  Parole "  espoused  his  cause,  and  a  movement  to 
prevent  Jews  from  serving  as  officers  slowly  set  in,  leading 
a  couple  of  years  later  to  the  Dreyfus  case. 

In  this  connection  one  may  remind  the  reader  that  an 
overwhelming  proportion  of  the  officers  of  the  French  army 
belonged  to  devout  Catholic  families,  often  aristocratic  and 
royalist  ones,  which  while  thinking  that  a  young  man  ought 
not  to  serve  the  government  of  the  Eepublic  in  any  political 
or  administrative  post  were  willing  that  he  should  accept  a 
diplomatic  appointment  or  join  the  army  as  an  officer,  for  in 
such  cases  it  was  really  France  that  he  served,  and  not  the 
hateful  Eepublican  regime.  That  distinction  had  been  drawn 
already  in  MacMahon's  time  and  was  adhered  to  for  many 
years,  indeed  until  the  clergy  saw  how  advisable  it  was  for 
their  proteges  to  accept  other  public  functions  in  order  to 
fight  the  influence  of  the  Jews  and  the  Freemasons  in  vari- 
ous State  departments.  Thus  many  young  men,  trained  by 
the  Jesuits  and  others,  were  helped  as  far  as  possible  into 
official  positions  without  being  restricted  as  previously  to 


428      &MILE  ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER 

the  diplomatic  service  and  the  army.  Nevertheless,  the  last 
remained  the  favourite  carribre  among  young  aristocrats  as 
well  as  among  many  young  men  of  the  upper  bourgeoisie  ; 
and  the  great  majority  of  these  having  been  educated  by 
ecclesiastics  were,  without  doubt,  prejudiced  against  the 
young  Jews  whom  the  regulations  admitted  among  them. 
The  prejudice  was  not,  however,  entirely  religious,  it  was 
also  a  racial  and  a  caste  prejudice  among  those  who  be- 
longed more  or  less  to  the  old  noblesse,  and  it  was  often  in 
a  sense  patriotic,  being  inspired  by  a  kind  of  distrust  of 
Jewish  rectitude.  Indeed,  even  Jewish  courage  was  ques- 
tioned by  some  who  forgot,  or  were  not  aware,  that  no  little 
Jewish  blood  had  flowed  in  the  veins  of  such  great  fighters 
as  Massdna,  Soult,  and  Bernadotte. 

The  agitation  against  the  French  Jews  had  been  growing 
slowly,  then,  for  several  years.  An  explosion  was  bound  to 
come  in  any  case,  particularly  as,  with  the  exception  of  the 
one  ministry  which  put  down  Greneral  Boulanger,  the  vari- 
ous French  administrations  over  a  lengthy  period  were 
deplorably  weak.  In  the  end  the  Dreyfus  case  became  the 
battlefield  of  the  parties  which  were  contending  for  mastery. 
The  outcry  against  the  Jews  was  prompted,  even  among  the 
Clericals,  less  by  genuine  religious  motives  than  by  political 
ones.  The  Jews  were  the  pretext.  Behind  the  onslaught 
on  them,  one  on  the  Republic  was  being  engineered.  One 
may  add  that  the  anti-Semitism  which  arose  in  France  was 
naturally  assisted  by  that  which  prevailed  in  Austria  and 
in  Russia.  Moreover,  the  Russian  alliance  became  in  cer- 
tain respects  £a  factor  of  importance ;  and  the  slumbering 
hatred  of  Germany  on  being  roused  in  connection  with 
Dreyfus  influenced  thousands  of  patriotic  people. 


ZOLA,  NOVELIST  AND  REFORMER      429 

Into  the  more  intricate  details  of  the  case  the  writer 
does  not  propose  to  enter.1  When  this  hook  was  first  pro- 
jected he  had  some  thought  of  reviewing  a  few  curious 
points,  but  since  then  the  victim  of  the  great  iniquity  has 
applied  for  the  revision  of  the  proceedings  at  Rennes,  and 
the  matter  is  now  before  the  judicial  authorities.  It  is 
therefore  best  that  one  should  confine  oneself  to  narrating 
what  Zola  himself  did  to  rescue  Dreyfus  from  the  hell 
in  which  he  suffered  for  so  many  years  —  just  recapitulat- 
ing, as  one  proceeds,  the  facts  which  are  essential  for  a 
proper  understanding  of  Zola's  rdle.  At  the  same  time  one 
must  not  neglect  his  literary  work,  and  the  more  important 
Incidents,  which,  apart  from  the  Dreyfus  case,  marked  his 
career  at  this  period. 

It  has  been  shown  previously  that  the  novelist  paid  little 
heed  to  the  anti-Semites  —  whom  he  regarded  as  more  tur- 
bulent than  dangerous  —  until  1896,  when  he  campaigned 
in  "Le  Figaro"  and  wrote  an  article  entitled  "For  the 
Jews."  He  afterw